Early homers spark Lady Falcons in win against Lady Comets

WESTPHALIA — Wheaties must have been on the breakfast menu for the Blair Oaks Lady Falcons on Thursday morning.

Payton Staggs and Blake Burks crushed first-inning home runs to highlight a five-run frame, as Blair Oaks’ 14-hit attack produced an 8-4 victory against Fatima on Thursday evening.

“I just liked the way we were swinging the bat,” Blair Oaks head coach Sharon Buschjost said. “It was fun to watch from a coaching perspective.”

Blair Oaks jumped on Fatima from the get-go, beginning with LeeAnn Polowy’s leadoff triple. Sara Jones brought her in on a sacrifice fly to open the scoring.

After Jolie Duffner and Ashley Forck reached on bloop singles, the Lady Falcons’ big bats stepped up.

Staggs smashed a three-run homer to left field to make it 4-0 before Burks blasted a solo shot to center two batters later.

“The dimensions, I’m not sure if they’re 200 (feet), but there was something about this fence that just looks deep,” Buschjost said. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m not sure if we’ll see any out this game.’ I’m glad I kept those comments to myself because those were ones that were easy to call once it left the bat. Payton Staggs and Blake Burks just put a great swing to a pitch they liked and sent it.”

Despite the early hole, Fatima was able to make a game of it.

“I’m happy with them,” Fatima head coach Dana Scheppers said. “We could have given up and rolled over. We could have been 10-runned, 15-runned, but we didn’t. We put a stop to it.”

The Lady Comets responded with a run in the bottom of the first on four walks. Christine Brunnert picked up the RBI on the bases-load free pass. Fatima couldn’t add any more, squandering a bases-loaded, one-out situation.

Blair Oaks restored the five-run advantage with a run in the top of the fourth. Lauren Viessman reached base with a leadoff infield single, Polowy sacrificed her to second, Viessman stole third and scored on a ground out from Sara Jones.

That’s when it got interesting.

Fatima scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth to get within 6-4.

Sammey Bunch and Kristen Boeckmann tallied RBI singles in the frame before Kate Massman’s run-scoring grounder made it 6-4. The Lady Comets missed out on a chance to tie the game, stranding runners on second and third.

“The way we started and exploded for those runs early, it’s tough to maintain that intensity and keep Fatima off the bases,” Buschjost said. “We had to fight every inning to keep their big inning to maybe (three) runs at the most, and then hope that scoreboard flipped seven innings pretty quick.”

Jolie Duffner’s RBI single made it 7-4 in the sixth before a couple of errors led to another Blair Oaks’ run in the seventh.

Yet the game was far from over.

Fatima, down to its last chance, loaded the bases on singles from Morgan Brandt, Brunnert and Boeckmann with only one out.

An odd play ensued with Massman at the plate, as she slapped a ball down the first-base line. What would have been an extremely tough defensive play turned into a bit of luck for Blair Oaks, as the ball hit Massman after she was out of the batter’s box, resulting in a dead-ball out, meaning all runners had to remain at their respective bases.

A deep flyout to center field ended the contest.

“I thought our girls did a wonderful job of not giving up,” Scheppers said. “We wanted it, we wanted to fight back and we kept battling the whole game. We put the pressure on them until the end. We were right there.”

Staggs was a triple shy of hitting for the cycle, ending with four hits. She also was the winning pitcher. Duffner had three hits, while Burks and Viessman had two hits apiece.

Boeckmann had two hits to lead Fatima. Leah Kesel was the losing pitcher.

Blair Oaks (14-3) plays in the Kewpie Classic beginning Friday, while Fatima (7-7) heads Tuesday to Tuscumbia.

“They have an excellent ball club,” Scheppers said. “I see them going pretty far this year, and we hung with them.”

Blair Oaks won the JV game 14-0 to improve to 10-1 on the season.

Taylor Gehlert fired a no-hitter, striking out 12 and walking two.

Natalie Mudd registered two hits and three RBI, Lindsey Kolb had two hits and two RBI and Kaitlyn Otto, Karlie Reinkemeyer and Macyn Wilbers each had two hits and an RBI.

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