MOKANE, Mo. - Even though Abby Bartley's strikeout totals weren't nearly as lofty as Sarah Handrahan's, Bartley emerged with the edge.
Bartley and Handrahan both delivered a pair of two-hit outings in Wednesday night's Class 2 sectional, but South Callaway was aggressive in profiting from two mistakes by Jefferson: Festus as the Lady Bulldogs outlasted the Lady Blue Jays in a 2-1 victory.
The win sends South Callaway (22-4) back to the Class 2 quarterfinals for a second straight year. The Lady Bulldogs will be on the road for that game when they travel to Highland (20-7) on Saturday. Game time has not yet been determined.
Highland shut out Louisiana 8-0 in a sectional game Wednesday night.
Bartley, a senior, settled under Jefferson sophomore second baseman Emily Ray's soft pop-up in front of home plate and pulled it in for the final, clinching out, and then nonchalantly flipped the ball over her shoulder. However, Bartley quickly second-guessed whether she had been premature in starting South Callaway's celebration.
"Right when I did that, I was like, "Oh, I hope that doesn't count as a drop,'" Bartley said as she laughed afterward.
Bartley struck out four and walked two, both coming in the bottom of the first inning when the Lady Blue Jays (10-11) tallied their lone run. She was also the benefactor of a pair of double plays from the Lady Bulldogs' defense, the initial one taking place in the first to save a run.
Handrahan - just a freshman - issued only one walk and struck out 12, including eight in a row at one point. Bartley, though, noted the eventual difference was the defensive backing she received from her South Callaway teammates.
"I definitely think she (Handrahan) is something," Bartley said. "I know she had more strikeouts than me, but I had the defense - and that's what every pitcher needs. You can have a good pitcher and have a great team with the defense.
"... It was me battling her - but I had all of them (teammates) too."
Meanwhile, senior third baseman Karli Leeper - the Lady Bulldogs' leadoff hitter - was responsible for both of South Callaway's hits and its two runs.
Despite playing at home, the Lady Bulldogs were the visitors and Leeper led off the game by depositing a triple into the right-field corner. With one out and Bartley at the plate, Leeper raced home on a rare slip-up by Handrahan - a wild pitch - to put South Callaway in front 1-0.
Ray opened Jefferson's half of the first by reaching on a throwing error by Leeper and moved up on sophomore third baseman Samantha White's sacrifice bunt. Bartley then issued consecutive walks to junior second baseman Morgan Rushing and Handrahan to load the bases.
Junior center fielder Lauren Rundel followed with a single to center, bringing home Ray with the tying run. Junior Ashley Perry - pinch-running for Handrahan - also tried to score on the play but was thrown out at the plate. Junior catcher Anna Bartley then threw to Leeper at third, who tagged out Rushing to complete a double play as the Lady Bulldogs escaped further damage.
Leeper then started South Callaway's third with a single to right and stole second. She came around to score what would prove to be the deciding run when Jefferson fielded senior shortstop Bailey Ward's grounder and skipped a throw past first base.
South Callaway head coach David Odneal knew the Lady Bulldogs would have to maximize their scoring chances against Handrahan.
"We came in with the idea that we were going to be aggressive; we knew their pitcher was going to be pretty tough," Odneal said. "In that situation, we had to push the issue a little bit and (Leeper) was able to get there."
Ray made it to first on a dropped third strike to lead off Jefferson's half of the third, but White grounded back to Bartley to start a double play. Rushing followed with a single to left, but Bartley was able to get Handrahan to fly out to right to end the inning.
The Lady Blue Jays were down to their final opportunity in the bottom of the seventh when Bartley hit junior catcher Chloe Morrison with a one-out pitch. Bartley, though, bounced back to strike out sophomore right fielder Maddie Brown and then got Ray on the pop-up in front of home to secure the win.
"Abby did very well," Odneal said. "When the pressure was on, she came through and did great."