WESTPHALIA, Mo. — It was another big night for Makenna Kliethermes.
The Blair Oaks junior pitched a two-hitter while striking out 16. Also the team's No. 3 hitter in the lineup, Kliethermes drove in four runs Wednesday — including a two-run home run — to lead the Lady Falcons to a 7-0 win against the Fatima Lady Comets in the Class 2 sectional round.
"From last year to this year, she has grown and matured as a player, as a pitcher, as a hitter, as a leader," Blair Oaks coach Sharon Buschjost said of Kliethermes. "I think that's what is showing at this time of the year, and it's made a huge difference.
"She's a confident player, pitches very well and takes pride in her hitting."
Blair Oaks struggled early against Fatima pitcher Macy Berhorst, who retired the first eight batters she faced. Berhorst needed just four pitches to get through the first inning.
"Berhorst likes to get ahead of batters, as most pitchers do," Buschjost said. "Our hitters had a game plan going in to look to attack early, but it didn't end up working in our favor."
That prompted a change of plans. Now the Lady Falcons practiced patience against Berhorst.
Cameron Dulle, the Lady Falcons' No. 9 hitter, drew an eight-pitch walk with two outs in the top of the third inning to become Blair Oaks' first baserunner.
"I was talking to my teammates and they told me to watch for the inside pitch," Dulle said. "I just tried to have a disciplined at-bat."
With an 0-2 count on the next batter, Macey Stockman, Dulle stole second on a pitch in the dirt to move into scoring position. Two pitches later, Stockman singled up the middle, scoring Dulle to put the Lady Falcons ahead 1-0.
Buschjost said the stolen base was a huge play to set up the possibility for a big inning.
"It was the right combination, in terms of who I had at first base running, and it was the right count to run on," she said. "We were trying to make something happen, and luckily, it was a changeup in the dirt."
As the inning continued, Kayla Jones reached on an infield single, then Kliethermes doubled into the left-center field gap to score two runs and extend the Lady Falcons' lead to 3-0.
In the fifth, Kleithermes lined her two-run homer over the right-center field fence to give Blair Oaks a five-run lead. She finished 2-for-4 and has collected eight hits in the Lady Falcons' three postseason games.
"I knew from my last at-bat that they were going to try to not pitch me anything over the middle," Kliethermes said. "I had to go up there and look for the right pitch. I didn't realize it was going to go over, to be honest."
The home-run pitch would turn out to be the last of Berhorst's high school career. She left the circle after 4 innings, allowing five runs on six hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
"She's done tremendous in this season and seasons past," Fatima coach Dana Scheppers said. "This whole group of seniors won four district championships. They have nothing to hang their heads about. We lost to a great ballclub."
Hannah Schroeder hit a leadoff home run off relief pitcher Ally Bonnot in the sixth inning, her second homer of the postseason, to make the score 6-0.
Sydney Wilde hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh to drive in Jones, who finished with three runs scored for the Lady Falcons.
Fatima had runners on first and second with one out in both the first and fourth innings, but Kliethermes got out of the jam each time with back-to-back strikeouts.
"I was hoping in the (first) inning that we could've gotten a lead on them," Scheppers said.
Bonnot had two singles for Fatima's only hits and added two strikeouts in 2 innings of relief pitching. The Lady Comets finish the season with a 20-8 record.
Schroeder finished 2-for-4, adding a single in the fourth inning, and Jones added a pair of singles for the Lady Falcons. Brooke Boessen and Torie Thurston each had one single.
Blair Oaks (26-5) will host Dixon (23-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Falcon Athletic Complex in the quarterfinal round. Dixon, the only remaining undefeated softball team in Missouri this season, defeated Warsaw 5-1 in its sectional matchup Wednesday.
Warsaw has been the only common opponent on the Blair Oaks' and Dixon's schedules. The Lady Falcons finished the regular season Oct. 2 with a 6-1 home win against the Lady Wildcats.
"We're going to have to learn some things about Dixon other than their record being undefeated," Buschjost said. "I know anybody that plays this time of the year with an undefeated record, it adds a little extra pressure on you.
"It sounds like they are a very good team, and we'll be ready for the Saturday."