By Eric Wade
Nevada Daily Mail
"Not bad." Those words from the mouth of Nevada Lady Tigers head coach Tammy Holcomb may fall short of describing the efforts of her squad as they headed out on the road for what ultimately became the final time this season, taking on the Lady Eagles of Grain Valley High School in the Missouri State High School Activities Association Class 3 Sectional game Wednesday evening.
The Lady Tigers came into the contest riding the almost indescribable high they were afforded from achieving a feat that just three other teams have ever accomplished in the history of Nevada High School athletics when they won their third consecutive district championship over the Pleasant Hill Chicks. The last time a team accomplished that feat was a span of Seven seasons under head coach Jim Snyder when the Nevada Lady Tigers golf team won every district championship from 1988-94.
Despite being district champions for the third straight year, however, the Lady Tigers' season came to an end Wednesday with a 6-3 defeat at the hands of the Lady Eagles.
"You know, just fell short of where we wanted to be. Everybody worked, hard, but like I said, I'm very pleased that we fought hard the whole time," Holcomb said. "Nobody gave up."
The Lady Eagles came into the night with a decided advantage on paper as they had faced one common opponent in the Chicks and Grain Valley won both regular season meetings over Pleasant Hill by the final scores of 12-3 and 10-8. That didn't seem to bother Holcomb or any member of her squad, and they made things tough on Grain Valley starter Brooklynne Simbeck right from the outset of the contest.
Simbeck and Nevada starter Christian Novak were both up for the challenge each squad's offense presented, and it looked as though the Lady Tigers would have another pitching duel on their hands as neither team was able to get a baserunner through the first two innings.
That all changed in the home half of the third, inning, however, when Monica Hudson reached on the game's first error with two outs. Mikayla Akers followed with a bunt single that ultimately ended up giving the Lady Eagles two runners in scoring position with two out after an errant throw that allowed the runners to move to second and third.
Shortstop Taylor Mays broke the scoreless tie shortly thereafter as she hit a line drive single up the middle that allowed both Hudson and Akers to score. Just two batters later, Sydney Fry knocked in Mays with a line drive single of her own that was quickly followed by the game's first error, by Novak. The Lady Eagles plated a fourth run, ending up with 4-0 lead after three innings.
The Lady Eagles added to their lead in the home half of the fifth as Fry recorded her second RBI of the game on a ground ball through the infield that scored Akers. Fry ultimately came around to score herself on Kelsi Hill's line drive double, giving the Lady Eagles a seemingly insurmountable 6-0 lead after five innings.
Just as Holcomb pointed out in her postgame interview, however, the Lady Tigers didn't give up and took advantage of the first signs of struggle Simbeck showed in the sixth inning, plating three runs of their own, when they loaded the bases with two out. Madeline Culbertson made Simbeck pay for her struggles as she lifted a bloop hit between first baseman Courtney Fogt and Hudson in right that allowed all three runners to score, cutting the lead to 6-3.
"Very pleased with their effort," Holcomb said of the comeback effort. "They worked hard."
That was where the comeback came to an end, however, and the Lady Eagles ultimately held on to take the victory by a final score of 6-3. For the Lady Eagles, Simbeck finished the night allowing three earned runs on four hits with 17 strikeouts and four walks.
Novak finished the night having allowed six runs on 10 hits with 15 strikeouts and no walks. Of the 130 total pitches she threw, Simbeck had 80 strikes, while Novak threw 87 strikes in her 116 pitches.
With the loss, the Lady Tigers' season came to an end with a record of 17-9.