SHAWNEE — For the second-ranked Latta Lady Panthers, it was a matter of “settling in” Thursday in the opening round of the Class 2A State Softball Tournament at the Ball Fields at Firelake.
Taryn Batterton was solid from the circle while Jaylee Willis drove home four runs in going 2-for-3 with a triple, and Latta upended Hobart, 6-1.
The win advanced Latta, 32-2 on the season, to Friday’s semifinals against No. 3 Dale (32-5). The seventh-ranked Bears are done at 31-7.
“We finally settled in and tried not to do too much,” said Latta head coach Missy Rogers. “We just needed a single at times, a walk, a bunt. It was all effective.”
The Lady Panthers, clinging to a 1-0 edge through four innings, broke the game open with a five-run fifth inning to take control.
“It was exciting to come alive late. Our pitching and defense did a great job,” Rogers said. “Both of our pitchers (Batterton and Jade Sanders) have done a great job, and we’ve had great defense behind them. We can trust our defense,”
Batterton pitched all seven innings and gave up three hits and three walks while striking out 13 batters.
“She moves the ball around real well,” said Rogers.
Latta broke a scoreless deadlock in the third off Willis’ first RBI, a single to right-center.
That 1-0 Lady Panther advantage stood up until the five-run, four-hit fifth. Triniti Cotanny drew a leadoff walk and Bajtterton executed a bunt-single before both moved up a base on Brooklyn Ryan’s sacrifice bunt. Brylea Russell was then intentionally walked to load up the bases in an attempt to put a force-out into effect everywhere.
However, the move backfired as Willis cleared the bases with a three-run triple for her second, third and fourth RBIs of the game.
Hailey Baber’s bunt-single brought home Willis for a 5-0 Lady Panther cushion, and Cheyenne Adair’s run-scoring single to right-center made it 6-0.
Batterton was 2-for-2 with the two bunt-singles and a sacrifice bunt, and Baber finished 1-for-3 with the one RBI as Latta compiled seven hits. Ryan ended up 1-for-1 to go along with a sacrifice bunt.
Lexi Meinert and Caitlyn Collier slapped doubles for the Lady Bears. Collier absorbed the pitching loss. She struck out six, walked three and gave up six earned runs in six innings.