After seven innings, nothing stood between Capital City softball and Hickman. Lady Cavaliers hurler Lydia Coulson and the Kewpies pitcher Elise Kendrick were locked in a pitcher's duel where neither blinked in a scoreless first seven frames.
That meant extra innings in a Central Missouri Activities Conference clash.
Coulson, who had struck out 13 batters in regulation, put the first runner on in the top of the eighth with a walk. It looked like Capital City could be in trouble when Kendrick lined a ball right up the middle four pitches later, but Coulson leaped up and snagged the line drive with her glove before throwing to first for a double play. She recorded her 14th strikeout to finish off the inning and give the Lady Cavaliers a shot in the bottom of the inning.
Then, Kendrick and the Kewpies finally blinked. Kennedy Schanuth hit a walk-off single up the middle with two outs in the bottom of the eighth to score Maysen Karr and give Capital City a 1-0 win in extra innings Thursday at Capital City High School.
"It was a huge win, it's a conference win," Skinner said. "We're proud of how they competed."
The win keeps the Lady Cavaliers (10-2, 4-0 CMAC) undefeated in conference play and ensures that they control their own destiny in the conference title race with only two more games left against Sedalia Smith-Cotton and Helias. Hickman (3-6, 0-2 CMAC) lost its second straight game in extras after a 6-3 loss in nine innings to Battle on Tuesday.
It was Capital City's first walk-off of the year and proved a team that has relied on its offense a lot this season can also win a low-scoring affair.
This was the team's lowest run total of the season and they still came out on top behind Coulson's eight-inning three-hit shutout. She was especially dominant early by retiring the first 14 batters she faced, including a streak of five straight strikeouts between the first and third innings.
Coulson nearly scored a walk-off run to take matters into her own hands with a leadoff double in the bottom of the seventh. She advanced to third on a wild pitch, but after a line out kept her from advancing home she was thrown out at the plate on a ground ball by Kelsey O'Day.
"They made a really good play on it," Skinner said. "Sometimes some things just don't go your way and (that time) it didn't, but we didn't let that get to us. We went back out, got three outs and came back in, and then got the job done."
The plan going into the afternoon was to have the game split between Coulson and Olivia Wood, but with Coulson rolling Skinner decided to stick with her throughout the tense marathon.
"She's a competitor and that's what I love about her," Skinner said. "When she's out there I completely trust her and I know she's gonna go after that batter."
Coulson was able to keep the defense from being tested for a large portion of the afternoon. The ball didn't touch the infield grass until a single from Olivia Johnson bounced up the middle and into center field with two outs in the fifth.
Her velocity produced a number of punch-outs and made it a leisurely start of the day for the defense, but it was timely defensive plays that saved the day in the later innings.
O'Day made a nice play to shuffle and track down a pop-out on the edge of the grass on the opening batter in the top of the sixth. That batter likely would have scored with two more runners reaching base that inning. Instead, Coulson struck out a batter to strand runners on first and second.
In the top of the seventh, runners were on first and second again with two outs, and a line drive looked destined to drop for an RBI single, but Schanuth sprinted in to make the grab while the section of Capital City fans let out a collective sigh of relief.
"There were some really, really good plays that were not routine," Skinner said.
To top it all off, Coulson recorded her double play in the top of the eighth before Schanuth's game-winning hit set up by a Maysen Karr single and stolen base. Karr's hit two batters earlier was in the exact same spot as Schanuth's, right up the middle between the second baseman and shortstop.
On Schanuth's hit, Karr crossed the plate standing up after using her speed from second to beat the throw home easily before her teammates joined her in mobbing Schanuth.
"For a senior to come in and do it, there's no better ending than that," Skinner said.
Now the Lady Cavaliers look toward the Lady Jays Classic, playing at 1:45 p.m. today against Cape Notre Dame and playing at 5:15 p.m. after. A late-season matchup against Helias, the only other undefeated CMAC team at 2-0, looms on the horizon as a possible conference championship game Oct. 4.