KAHOKA, Mo. — Emma Wittler's hitting struggles were the reason why she decided to get a quick lesson the day before the Palmyra softball team's Class 2 District 6 matchup Thursday night.
“I met with a really good coach, and he really helped me out last night,” Wittler said. “I thought it really helped.”
She might wonder why she didn't get tips earlier.
Wittler had three hits and drove in three runs as top-seeded Palmyra defeated fourth-seeded Clark County 8-1 to advance to the district championship game. Palmyra will face third-seeded Highland, a 7-2 winner over Macon, for the title.
“Emma's been struggling and that hitting lesson definitely paid off,” Palmyra coach Jill Arch said. “We all had been struggling at the plate a little bit, but we tell them we're not worried about big hits. We just want to put the ball in play.”
The big hits came from an unexpected source.
Wittler's first hit was a rip into right field in the bottom of the second inning to drive in Brooke Lawson for a 3-0 advantage. In the fifth, she roped a double to left that scored Jazlin Gottman and Sophie Hoerr, pushing the Panthers' lead to 8-1.
Her only blemish of the night was hitting a triple down the right field line, but was tagged out trying to extend it into an inside-the-park home run.
“I think they did get me,” Wittler said.
Palmyra got on the board in the second inning on Lawson's RBI single that scored Bailey Lovelace, and Gottman scored on a throwing error on the same play for a 2-0 advantage. Lawson also drew a bases-loaded walk to finish with two RBIs.
Lawson relieved starting pitcher Lydia Althoff when Clark County's Dayanara Daniels singled and Genna Edmondson doubled to give the Indians two-on with no outs in the top of the fifth. Clark County's Alexis Ellison drove in Daniels on a sacrifice fly to left, but Edmondson was doubled off at third base. Lawson got Kiara Brunk to ground out to first to end the frame.
Lawson threw 2 2/3 innings of hitless ball and struck out two.
“I'm feeling good,” Lawson said. “My curveball and screwball were both working. When I get those swings and misses tells me the batters aren't really seeing it.”
Althoff scattered five hits, allowing one run while striking out seven.
Cameron O'Brien and Lovelace each drove in runs in the five-run fifth inning for Palmyra.
The Panthers had 11 hits as Gottman, Lovelace and O'Brien had two apiece.