WARDSVILLE -- The Fulton Lady Hornets have one of the most potent softball offenses in Mid-Missouri.
The Blair Oaks Lady Falcons knew their best chance to compete Monday night with the Lady Hornets was to score early and often.
And they did.
Blair Oaks scored six runs in the first three innings, which proved to be enough offensive output for a 9-4 victory in a state-ranked clash against Fulton at the Falcon Athletic Complex.
“You don’t feel like any lead is safe with them,” Blair Oaks coach Sharon Buschjost said about the Lady Hornets, who average more than eight runs per game this season.
Monday game was a makeup contest that was rescheduled from a rainout a week ago. Class 3 No. 2 Fulton and Class 3 No. 10 Blair Oaks were both already coming off a busy week.
“They’re coming off a five-game tournament, we’re coming off a four-game tournament,” Buschjost said. “Everybody at this point has played a lot of games.
“I was wondering, before the game started, who was going to be more focused, show good energy and get going? From the time we took batting practice before the game until the end of the game, I was happy with what I saw.”
The bats would do the most damage for the Lady Falcons, but it was the speed of Baley Rackers that triggered a three-run bottom of the first inning.
Rackers slapped a leadoff single to right field, then went from first to third base on a sacrifice bunt by Chesney Luebbering.
“You can’t underestimate what that does to the psyche of the other team, when you take first to third on a bunt,” Buschjost said. “That was a great way to start.”
The next batter, Kally Bruce, doubled off the left-field fence to give the Lady Falcons a 1-0 lead. Belle Boessen singled to left field and Morgan Luebbering followed with a two-run double down the left-field line.
It was Luebbering’s fifth consecutive hit, following up a four-hit performance Saturday against Cape Girardeau Notre Dame.
“As a coach, you want to see that hitter continue from where she left off,” Buschjost said. “She’s batting with a lot of confidence right now.”
Bruce blooped a two-out double between the Fulton shortstop and center fielder in the second inning, scoring Lydia Sullens and Madison Vaughan to increase the Blair Oaks lead to 5-1.
Addison Kusgen tripled to right-center field in the third inning and scored on a bloop single by Alyssa Reinkemeyer for the Lady Falcons’ sixth run.
Blair Oaks added three more runs in the fourth. Rackers reached on a infield single, stole second base and scored on Belle Boessen’s double off the top of the left-field fence.
“Kally’s and Belle’s hits, I thought they were both going to go out,” Buschjost said. “They ended up as doubles, but they were both good hits.”
Kusgen drove in a run with an RBI single to right field. An overthrow to third base on that same play allowed Morgan Luebbering to score easily from third base, increasing the lead to 9-2.
Ava Willson did everything she could to limit Fulton’s powerful offense, which produced nine home runs in its first 16 games.
Jayna Hedgpath skied a solo home run that carried beyond the center-field fence in the second inning. Her twin sister, Samantha Hedgpath, also hit a solo shot over the left-fence in the seventh inning.
The Hedgpaths each have five home runs this season, but Monday’s homers only drove in the bare minimum.
“They’re really good hitters,” Buschjost said. “If you’re going to give up a home run to them, best to do it when nobody’s on base.”
Fulton scored a run in the third inning on a two-out error and Rilee Swaim drew a bases-loaded walk in the sixth inning, which made the score 9-3.
With the bases still loaded and only one out in the sixth, Willson escaped with an infield pop-up and a groundout to keep the Lady Hornets from picking up momentum.
“They didn’t make it an easy game for Ava,” Buschjost said.
Willson scattered nine hits, struck out three batters and allowed the one walk, only reaching a three-ball count against four of Fulton’s 32 batters.
“She takes care of business early in the count, getting ahead and letting them chase her pitches,” Buschjost said. “That’s Ava, she doesn’t go to full counts too often.”
Bruce went 2-for-3 with three RBI, Boessen had a single and a double, Rackers added a pair of singles and Kusgen also had a multihit game with a single and a triple.
“She has come up big,” Buschjost said of Kusgen. “We’ve been so pleased with what she’s doing in right field on defense. She’s always been a good hitter, but it’s coming together for her this year.”
Fulton (11-5-1) returns to North Central Missouri Conference play Thursday at home against Marshall.
Blair Oaks (10-6) turns around and hosts School of the Osage at 5 p.m. today for Senior Night.
“Getting some of these big wins, it’s what we need,” Buschjost said. “We need to continue by going 3-0 this week.”
In Monday’s JV game, Blair Oaks dropped its record to 4-5 with a 6-2 loss to Fulton.
Haley Klebba struck out four batters in four innings for the Lady Falcons. Klebba, Avery Hagner and Avery Libbert each had one double.