By Eric Wade
Warrensburg, Mo. -- A three-peat. It's one of the hardest things for a team in any sport to pull off and that was the goal the Nevada Lady Tigers softball team took to Jennies Field at the University of Central Missouri.
The Lady Tigers came into the contest against the Pleasant Hill Chicks not only hoping to win their third consecutive district championship, but to avenge a regular season loss at Bushwhacker Field. The Lady Tigers pulled off both of those goals, winning the Class 3, District 13 tournament by a final score of 2-1.
"I don't know if you want to call it revenge," Lady Tigers head coach Tammy Holcomb said. "It's districts. We want to make sure that we come in doing our job. I think any time you lose a game to any team, that, you know, athletes want to come in and make sure that we're making up for that."
In the first meeting between the two squads, Pleasant Hill took advantage of an error and a wild pitch in the same inning to defeat the Lady Tigers by a final score of 4-2. In that contest, starting pitcher Courtney Fountain kept the Lady Tigers offense in check throughout most of the game and though the Lady Tigers gave the Chicks all they could handle, the Chicks ultimately did what it took to win.
Fountain had an equally strong performance Friday as she held the Lady Tigers to just two runs on seven hits with three strikeouts, but Lady Tigers starter Christian Novak was at her peak once again, and kept the Chicks off the board with the help of the Lady Tigers defense for the majority of the contest.
The two runs the Lady Tigers were able to get off of Fountain came in the top of the first inning, when Fountain was still trying to find her rhythm. The first of those runs came when Carsten Warner drove in Reagan Bradley with a RBI single to left. Novak helped her own cause later in the inning as she knocked in Mackenzie Pritchett with a line drive single of her own, giving the Lady Tigers a 2-0 lead after just half an inning.
Both pitchers settled into their rhythms from that point on, treating fans to the exciting pitching duel that everyone in the near-capacity crowd was expecting. The two pitchers, combined, allowed just four hits and three runs throughout the contest.
"I mean, I'm glad we came out swinging the bat, which helps Christian a lot," Holcomb said. "That makes her relax a lot, be able to do her job and just be able to pitch around a little bit and just put the ball where we want it. Christian did a very nice job and the opposing pitcher did a nice job."
Before Holcomb took over as head coach, the Lady Tigers had never won a district championship or even challenged for a state championship, but in the past three seasons, Holcomb and the Lady Tigers she's coached have now earned the right to claim three district championships and the only state title in program history.
The third district title didn't come easy, however. The Lady Tigers knew coming into the contest that they would have to be on their best game to earn the title and Mother Nature certainly didn't help the cause. The two squads were forced to play in temperatures in the upper 40s to low 50s throughout the night with a stiff northwest wind, which made the ball take a very unpredictable path on nearly every fly ball.
"It was cold both ways," Holcomb said. "We both had to play last night, I mean, in all honesty, I think that we were prepared a little bit."
Coming into the championship matchup, the Chicks had to play in similar conditions on their way to a 10-3 semifinal win over Harrisonville, while the Lady Tigers had to battle not only cold temperatures and wind, but rain as well in a 7-4 win over Clinton.
On championship day, neither squad seemed to suffer many ill effects from the poor weather conditions or the damp field as Novak finished with eight strikeouts and no walks, while Fountain struck out three in a hard-fought contest that wasn't decided until the final pitch was thrown.
With their district championship, the Lady Tigers also improved their record to 17-8 on the year and are now set to move into the state playoffs against the District 14 champion -- Grain Valley -- on Wednesday, Oct. 10.