Three-run fifth inning sends Blair Oaks softball past Helias

Kally Bruce of Blair Oaks takes a swing at a pitch during Tuesday’s game against Helias at the Falcon Athletic Complex in Wardsville. (Josh Cobb/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- All it took for the Blair Oaks Lady Falcons was one inning.

Despite committing five errors and falling behind early to the Helias Lady Crusaders, Blair Oaks used a three-hit fifth inning to score all of its runs and hold on for a 3-2 victory Tuesday night at the Falcon Athletic Complex.

“There was a decent amount of frustration that happened during quite a few innings of that game,” Blair Oaks coach Sharon Buschjost said. “But that’s the game itself. When you have that one inning, then one inning might be enough.”

  Gallery: Blair Oaks Softball vs. Helias

Morgan Luebbering reached base on an error with one out to start the Lady Falcons’ big fifth inning. Addison Kusgen followed with a single to center field, then No. 9 hitter Avery Libbert lined a double into the left-center field gap, scoring pinch-runner Lydia Sullens to pull Blair Oaks within one run of the Helias lead at 2-1.

Kusgen and Libbert did their part at the bottom of the batting order. Kusgen had two singles in her two at-bats, while Libbert advanced the runner with a sacrifice bunt in her first at-bat.

“At the start of the season, we have two outfield spots that players are competing for. As a coach, you like to see them competing, going up and handling the pressure, having big at-bats and coming through,” Buschjost said of Kusgen and Libbert.

Two batters later, Belle Boessen lined a two-out double into left-center field, scoring Kusgen as the tying run and Libbert as the go-ahead run, making the score 3-2 in Blair Oaks’ favor.

“She has that ability to just turn on one,” Buschjost said of Boessen. “… I felt like she was going to do something big there.”

To end the top of the fifth inning, Blair Oaks pitcher Ava Willson took a line drive off her right arm near the shoulder and was immediately hunched over in pain. She was able to walk off the field a few moments later under her own power.

“I immediately had Haley Klebba warming up, because I didn’t think she would stay in after that,” Buschjost said. “But she was cleared by the trainer and she wanted to go back in.

“I sure liked the determination and the grit from her.”

Willson returned to the circle in the sixth and retired the next six Helias batters she faced, ending the game by retiring the final nine Lady Crusaders.

“She was tough, she created problems for us all night,” Helias coach Kelly Fick said. “She battled around some mistakes. We were able to take advantage of a couple of them.”

The first mistake came in the third inning, when a two-out, two-base error put Claire Morris in scoring position for Helias. The next batter, Kendyll Rackers, reached on an infield single deep in the hole at shortstop, and Morris never slowed down, scoring all the way from second base to give the Lady Crusaders a 1-0 advantage.

“That’s part of our offensive approach, having different ways to create run-scoring opportunities,” Fick said. “Part of our identity is creating chaos and applying pressure on the defense.”

In the fifth inning, Karoline Klebba reached on a fielding error to lead off the inning and scored on a throwing error to give Helias a two-run lead.

None of the five runs scored by either team Tuesday were earned runs.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a game like that,” Fick said.

Blair Oaks committed five errors in the first two innings, yet only faced a two-run deficit entering the bottom of the fifth.

“I looked at the scoreboard several times, just thinking I was going to see more than two (runs) on the visitor’s side,” Buschjost said. “It just felt like we were down 5-0.”

The Lady Falcons made two big defensive plays to stay within reach. The first play was a throw right at the second-base bag by catcher Kally Bruce on a caught-stealing attempt to end the second inning.

“That runner had a great jump,” Buschjost said. “It took a perfect throw and a perfect tag (to get her).”

The other play was a big break on a squeeze bunt that stopped in fair territory in the batter’s box, leading to a Helias runner being caught between third base and home plate trying to score in the fourth inning.

“You never know when you’re going to have a learning opportunity,” Fick said. “Hopefully, if we’re in that situation again and we’re going to be out, let’s get in a rundown so we can get the batter to second base.”

Willson gave up five hits and no walks while striking out four batters in seven innings for the Lady Falcons.

Helias pitcher Cambri Van Loo also allowed five hits in six innings, walking two batters.

The Blair Oaks offense did not strike out in 21 at-bats.

“That might be the most exciting stat for me on the night,” Buschjost said. “Our swing-and-misses and our strikeouts have been too high.”

Addy Wilson had two hits for the Lady Crusaders.

Helias (10-4) plays Blue Springs, Troy-Buchanan and Fulton on Friday in the Rock Bridge Southside Classic.

Blair Oaks (6-4) hosts Boonville on Thursday.

“If we consider ourselves a really good team, we have to start beating some other really good teams. That’s what I considered tonight to be, a win against a really good team,” Buschjost said.

In Tuesday’s JV game, Helias defeated Blair Oaks 11-3.