After three innings, the Jefferson City Lady Jays had given the defending Class 5 state champions all they could handle.
Amaya Ford took a ground ball at shortstop, tagged second, and made a near-perfect throw to finish a double play to help end a Rock Bridge threat in the third and the Lady Jays were in a neck-and-neck game only down 5-4.
The game wouldn't stay that way for long, with the Bruins running away with seven runs in the next two innings, but a 12-6 loss for the Lady Jays is a far cry from the beginning of the season.
Jefferson City lost its first eight games before a 5-3 win Monday at St. Elizabeth, and the 11 runs scored in its last two games are almost equal to the team's total of 13 runs in its eight losses to start the season.
"The goal at the beginning of the season is to get better every day and in every game," Jefferson City coach Zac Miller said. "I felt like tonight was probably our best night of hitting. We've definitely got some things to work on still, of course, but for the most part, we continued to improve so that's what we're looking for."
The Lady Jays had a 1-0 lead after the first when Ford scored Rheagen Nevins with an RBI single after ace Avrey Reynolds pitched a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the first.
Ford finished 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored to go along with some solid play from the shortstop position. As the only returning infield starter, she has locked down the shortstop position while the team is starting to solidify its positions on the rest of the diamond after shuffling players around early in the season.
Reynolds gave up 12 runs in five innings but wasn't helped by a couple of misplays in the outfield in the second inning. Two fly balls were misjudged by Addison Morgan and Kaylee Redcay and dropped into the grass to start what turned into a five-run inning for the Bruins punctuated by an Anna Christ two-RBI single to go up 5-1.
"Early in the game on that ball to Allison, the sun is right there and in her eyes and so that's a pretty tough play there on a line drive right at her," Miller said. "They keep getting better each time out and that's all we can ask of them."
Morgan answered with a two-RBI double in the second followed by an RBI single by Nevins to pull Jefferson City within one.
Reynolds lead off the bottom of the third with a double to put a runner in scoring position to tie the game, but an interference call when she collided with the Bruins shortstop took her off the basepaths. The call was one of two interference calls against the Lady Jays and one of five outs on the basepaths.
"It's the umpires' call," Miller said. "A runner does have to give a fielder the opportunity to field the ball, just not sure how much fielding we were really going for there but it's just part of the game and it is what it is.
"I felt like that was probably a turning point in the game. "That's a 5-4 ballgame at the point and Avery got drilled pretty good there and that next inning is where they got some runs and put them ahead quite a bit."
Redcay nearly turned the game anyway with a long flyball to the edge of left field later in the inning, but the ball was just foul. The freshman flew out to right field later in the at bat to strand two runners before the game unraveled in the fourth and fifth inning.
A series of infield singles and good situational hitting broke the game open for Rock Bridge. Cydney Fullerton got an RBI hit to get things going. Abby Hay got an RBI double in the fourth before recording a sac fly in the fifth. Christ's two-RBI hit in the fifth put them up 12-4 to put the game out of reach.
While the Bruins were scoring runs, Christ came out of the bullpen to shut down the Lady Jays. Starter Addie Morris gave up four runs in the first three innings, but Christ struck out four batters in a scoreless 2 innings before Annabelle Head got the final four outs.
After the fifth, Allison Carwile finished the game off with two scoreless innings coming in for Reynolds. She didn't record a strikeout, but she pitched to contact well and the Lady Jays defense finished the night with two clean innings.
Redcay made three nice plays during the course of six outs to give the team a small bit of hope entering the bottom of the seventh. Redcay then brought the team within six with an RBI single, but Carwile lined out to the shortstop to end the game with runners on second and third.
Jefferson City is back in action Friday and Saturday when it hosts the Lady Jay Classic at Binder Park.