EWING, Mo. – The Palmyra softball team had the momentum and energy after erasing an awful first inning to tie the game in the fifth inning.
One swing by Highland's Lauren Merrell changed all that.
Merrell slammed a two-run homer to straightaway center field, giving the Cougars a 9-7 victory over the Panthers in Clarence Cannon Conference action Wednesday night.
“It was one swing that changed the game,” Palmyra first baseman Cameron O'Brien said. “But we had chances of our own to change the game, too.”
Palmyra nearly did.
Highland elected to walk Palmyra's Bailey Lovelace, who represented the go-ahead run, to load the bases with one out in the top of the sixth inning. The move paid off as Jazlin Gottman hit a sharp line drive that was snared by Highland first baseman Anna Warning, who doubled off Lovelace to end the inning.
Had the ball gotten through, at least two runs would have scored on the play.
“Tonight wasn't our night,” O'Brien said.
Palmyra had to overcome a first inning that saw Highland score five runs on just one hit. Palmyra issued four walks and hit two batters in the frame, while also committing an error.
Palmyra bailed out of the inning on a double play when Highland's Alivia Handy didn't tag up at third on a flyball.
“That was our worst inning of the season,” Palmyra coach Jill Arch said. “But we asked them to move on and just plug away.”
The Panthers slowly did.
Lovelace had an RBI ground out in the third that cut the deficit to 5-2. However, Highland answered with a two-run single in the fourth that pushed the lead to 7-2.
Palmyra made up the deficit with a five-run fifth. O'Brien had an RBI single to score Abbey Redd, and two more runs scored on a fielding error to make it 7-5. That was followed by consecutive RBI singles by Sophie Hoerr and Drew Billups to tie the game.
“We just chipped away,” Gottman said. “That first inning is really what hurt us.”
So did Merrell's home run off Gottman three batters into the bottom half of the frame.
Palmyra finished with nine hits, while Highland had eight. Megan Stone and Emma Wittler each had three hits for Palmyra, while Addy Johnson had three for Highland.
Palmyra hopes to see Highland again, which could potentially be in a district championship game.
“We have the ability to win a district championship,” O'Brien said. “I think we have the ability to beat this team.”