COLUMBIA, Mo. – Grain Valley softball coach Garrett Ogle had to call his father, Dan, a longtime area official and former baseball coach and operations director at William Chrisman High School.
As he called his father, parents and players alike scoured the internet for the answer to perhaps the most intriguing question in the history of the Eagles’ program: Can a pitcher start a game, leave the game, go back to the mound and get a win and save?
Because that’s exactly what Elder Avery Huffman did on Wednesday night in a spectacular District 5 Class 5 semi-final victory over defending state champion Columbia Rock Bridge (seeded No. 3, 21-11) at Battle High School.
Huffman, who pitched a 15-strike scoreless game against Columbia Hickman in Tuesday’s 3-0 first-round win, returned to the circle on Wednesday and was in cruise control for the first six innings.
Following:District softball roundup: hitting Avery Huffman pushes Grain Valley to district semifinals
She was leading 5-1 and had 13 strikeouts before giving Cydney Fullerton a solo homerun early in the seventh inning.
Ogle walked out of the circle, gave Huffman a congratulatory pat on the back and brought in All-State pitcher Hailey Hemme for the save.
But in a rare fit of savagery, Hemme walked two hitters and hit another to charge the bases.
After a ball to Bella Stephens, Ogle returned to the circle and brought Huffman back onto the pitch.
“I never made a pitcher change in the middle of a pitcher pitching to a batter,” Ogle said, “but Hailey was having a hard time and I was not shy about bringing Avery back into the game.”
Huffman walked the first batter, to force into the third point of the game, then Kendall Watson hit the ground for shortstop Emma Jane Ogle, who sent off the runner for home third base.
Following:Grain Valley tennis secures first team in final four by knocking out Carl Junction
The bases were still loaded, with an exit.
Huffman struck out the next two hitters and saved her own win.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Huffman, who has two wins and 30 strikeouts in two district games. “When they hit the ball at Emma Jane short and she threw the runner home, I almost started screaming over the mound. It was such a good game. win matches like this – with good plays and big hits.
“You should talk to everyone on the team because everyone has contributed.”
BriLeigh Sims of Grain Valley had a triple RBI in the first inning and birthday girl Mikayla Chairez hit a two-run homer inside the park to make it 3-0 in the bottom of the third.
“My home run and this win are the best birthday presents I’ve ever received,” said Chairez, who nearly crushed McKenah Sears on the base trails on his home run.
“There was a reason for that,” Sears joked. “I came back to score in second place, then when I saw the ball passed over the left fielder’s head I took off. I can’t help it if Mikayla is a little faster than me.”
Still a little dizzy after the remarkable win, Chairez said: “It was such a crazy game. It was intense, fun, loud, scary and thrilling. You couldn’t ask for more from a game, and Avery was amazing. ! ”
Sears hit a two-run single late in the fourth inning that gave the Eagles a 5-0 lead, which didn’t seem so bad at the time. It turned out to be the biggest hit of the night.
“There were a lot of hits and clutch play tonight – like Avery getting those strikeouts in the seventh, Emma Jane’s defensive play and Mikayla’s homerun,” Sears said. “It’s just a clutch win, by a clutch team with a lot of clutch players.”
The Nine-winning No.2 Eagles (29-4) will now face the seeded Blue Springs South Jaguars (27-4) in the district championship game, tentatively set for 6 p.m. Friday in Columbia. There was talk after the game that the title game could be moved to a neutral site in the metro area instead of the two schools, which are only 3.2 miles apart, traveling to Columbia.
The question remained whether Huffman got both the win and the save.
Before Ogle put away his gear and prepared to leave Battle High School, he said, “It might not be an official save, by rule, but everyone here knows what Avery has.” made. I’ve never seen this happen, and it’s a win and a stop in my book! ”