Something had to give Wednesday afternoon.
Freedom and Countryside both threatened to light the scoreboard throughout six innings only to watch each limited opportunity come up empty.
But before the Class 7A region quarterfinal could get to extra frames, Freedom made its move.
The Patriots (19-3) mounted a furious two-out rally in the top of the seventh, stringing together five-straight hits and scoring all the runs they would need to earn a 2-0 win over the Cougars (24-4).
“I'm excited. The girls worked hard, we played great defense and we made adjustments at the plate,” said Freedom coach Autum Hernandez. “This is an accomplishment. It's the farthest we've ever been in school history so that's something for them to be proud of.”
Freedom, established in 2002, continued rewriting its softball history book. The Patriots qualified for the postseason for the first time last week and now has won its first regional playoff game.
The Patriots offense had managed only two base hits in the first six innings before getting to Countryside starter Alyssa Queen in the seventh.
Right fielder Kayla Maczuga, only playing in the field up until the last inning, took advantage of her opportunity at the plate by starting the game-winning rally with a base hit. Ashley Wilson and Rachel Carlson followed with singles to load the bases, setting the stage for a battle between Queen and Freedom's Maddy Hall. The Patriots' freshman leadoff hitter worked the count full, and then delivered with what would be the decisive hit by pulling a ground past the diving glove of third baseman Erin Jankiewicz..
“You're either going to get walked or hit the ball,” Hall said of the tense scenario. “So just take a chance and hit the ball, and I hit the ball. I just wanted to make contact with the ball and hit it on the ground to bring the run in. That's all I was focusing on in that at bat.”
Freedom's Caroline Whiteside stretched the lead to 2-0 with the inning's fifth straight single.
“You could see it coming that they were going to start hitting the ball,” said Countryside pitcher Kaylyn Bayly. “Most teams can do that the third time they see a pitcher.”
Vexing Countryside all day was a lack of production at the plate with runners on base. Cougars batters led off four innings with base hits but only once got a base runner as far as third base.
The home team's best scoring opportunity came in the fifth inning when Queen and Sommer Pollard led off with consecutive singles. Base runners were advanced to second and third with two outs on Samantha Sharpe's sacrifice bunt, but Maczuga tracked down Keeley Mayers' hard-hit ball to right to end the threat.
Countryside's premature defeat halts a 24-win season that held much promise, including a potential rematch next Tuesday with Chamberlain High. The Cougars lost 13-1 to the eventual Class 7A state champions in the second round last year.
“They fought hard and considering some of the things they had to overcome this year I think they did a good job,” Bayly said of her team. “We made a few mistakes at the plate and base running, but they worked hard and I thought they gave all they could. Sometimes you just don't end up on the winning side.”
Hailee Keisling and Kelsie Sanchez both had two-hit days for the Cougars, as did Freedom's Ashley Wilson.
Freedom will play now travel to Chamberlain on Tuesday for a rematch of last week's District 7A-9 championship game won 4-2 by the Chiefs.
Freedom - 000 000 2 --- 2-7-2C-Side - 000 000 0 --- 0-6-2
WP – Katlin HallLP – Alyssa Queen