Jamestown High School Lady Eagles softball played in their first-ever Final Four on Friday afternoon at the Class 1 state championships in Springfield.
The Lady Eagles played against the Marion C. Early High School Lady Panthers, a team who had won four district titles in five years.
Despite a slow start on offense, Jamestown was able to break their hitting mold and score three runs in the fourth inning to propel them to a 3-1 win and a spot in the state championship game.
In the bottom of the first inning, the Lady Panthers received two runners on base with a hit by pitch and an error.
Marion's third batter, pitcher Hailey Presley, hit the first pitch to right field for a double and scored the game's first run. With two runners in scoring position and no outs, Jamestown's pitcher, Olivia Meisenheimer, stepped up and struck out the next three batters to end the inning.
Both teams went hitless in the second inning with all three of Jamestown's batters going down in strikeouts.
In the bottom of the third, Lady Panthers center fielder Maggie Painter walked on the lead off at-bat. The next batter, third baseman Haley Madewell grounded into a double play. The third and final out of the third inning was a ground out to the shortstop.
Going into the top of the fourth, the Lady Eagles were down by a run and without a hit. But all that changed when shortstop Kylie Allen hit a single to center field. Two batters later, Meisenheimer was at the plate with two runners on base. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, she hit a 3-2 pitch up the middle for a base hit that scored Allen from second base to tie the game 1-1.
Jamestown center fielder Sydney Derendinger followed up Meisenheimer's RBI with a break on a 1-1 pitch. Derendinger hit an infield pop up that was misplayed by the pitcher. The error allowed Jamestown senior catcher Jolene Sorrels to score the go-ahead run from third base with Derendinger safe at first.
Later in the inning, Jamestown had the bases loaded with one out and first baseman Madelynn Gerlach up to bat. Gerlach hit a 1-2 pitch to shallow left-field that was caught by the right fielder, but enabled the runner on third base to reach home and extend the Lady Eagles' lead to 3-1.
The Lady Eagles maintained their lead through the fourth and fifth innings.
In the top of the sixth, Lady Eagles third baseman Madison Haldiman hit a single to left field with one out.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Lady Panthers opened up with back-to-back singles from third baseman Haley Madewell and pitcher Hailey Presley. However, Lady Eagles catcher Jolene Sorrels caught the ball out in foul territory.
Olivia Meisenheimer struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
The Lady Panthers threatened to disrupt Jamestown's semifinal win after right fielder Afomiya Bess led off the inning with a double. But, once again, Meisenheimer struck out the next two batters to bring Marion down to their last out.
On a 2-2 pitch to Marion's next batter, third baseman Haley Madewell, a ground ball was hit to Meisenheimer, who made the final out to first base to give the Lady Eagles the 3-1 win and a spot in the Class 1 championship game.
For the Lady Eagles, pitcher Olivia Meisenheimer pitched seven innings and allowed one run on four hits with three walks and 12 strikeouts. She also batted 1-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Shortstop Kylie Allen batted 1-4 with a run scored. Jamestown senior second baseman Madison Haldiman batted 1-3. Senior third baseman Mikayla Haldiman batted 1-2 with a walk and senior catcher Jolene Sorrels batted 0-1 with a run scored with two walks.
For the Lady Panthers, pitcher Hailey Presley pitched seven innings and allowed three runs on four hits with three walks and 12 strikeouts. Presley also batted 2-3 with an RBI. Third baseman Haley Madewell batted 1-4. Right fielder Adonay Bess batted 1-3 and center fielder Maggie Painter batted 0-2 with a run scored.
Before the semifinal game with Marion C. Early, Jamestown head coach John Muri said for the Lady Eagles to win, they would need to maintain a low scoring game and do just enough on defense to secure a lead. Jamestown was able to score all three of their runs in the fourth inning while leaving seven runners on base to preserve their lead and seal the win.
"I knew this group of girls had the ability to do it. We won districts last year, but lost to a really good New Franklin team at sectionals. I knew they had the ability to do it, but to take it all the way to final four is amazing. Jamestown has never been to the final four before," Muri said. "And for this group to make it all the way here and to the championship game against a lot of great teams is amazing. The girls played their hearts out. Out pitcher (Olivia Meisenheimer) pitched a great game. Our defense played great. Our offense got enough runs for us to win and I can't be more proud of the ladies."