KAHOKA, Mo. – Lydia Althoff had redemption on her mind when she entered the circle in the top of the fifth inning.
The last time the Palmyra softball pitcher faced Highland, she didn't even make it out of the first inning as the Panthers lost 9-7 on Oct. 2. It was a different story Saturday afternoon.
Althoff allowed just one run with four strikeouts to finish off Palmyra's 5-1 victory over Highland to capture the Class 2 District 6 championship.
“I was waiting for this game ever since the last time we played,” Althoff said. “I wanted to show them who I really was.”
It helped Palmyra advance to play Monroe City, an 8-5 winner over Bowling Green, in Wednesday's sectional game in Monroe City.
Althoff, however, didn't have the cleanest of starts.
She relieved starting pitcher Brooke Lawson, who threw four scoreless innings. Althoff issued a one-out walk to Gwyn Murphy, and Brianna Neisen followed with a single. An error on the play gave Highland two runners in scoring position. Althoff struck out Camryn Stice before Lauren Merrell hit a sharp grounder back at the pitcher.
Althoff gloved the ball, but it slipped out of her hand when she tried to throw to first and brought home a run to cut Palmyra's lead to 4-1.
A fly out ended the frame.
Any momentum Highland had, however, was gone as Palmyra's Bailey Lovelace lined a home run over the fence in right on the second pitch she saw, pushing the lead back to 5-1.
“We just talk about not letting things snowball,” Lovelace said. “My teammates kept telling me I was going to get a hit. When there's a ball in the strike zone (from Highland pitcher Merrell) you have to swing at it and hit it hard.”
That put the momentum back in Palmyra's favor.
“That was a huge relief,” Althoff said. “(Highland's) run basically meant nothing.”
Althoff worked around a lead off walk to Highland's Addy Johnson before retiring the side in the seventh to seal the championship.
“The girls wanted this and this game,” Palmyra coach Jill Arch said. “They wanted to see Highland. That's just the seniors that I have. I've been around them for many, many years and they're just going to battle.”
Lawson was nearly flawless in her four innings of work against Highland. She retired the first nine she faced before issuing a walk to Merrell to lead off the fourth. She struck out five without allowing a hit.
The Cougars had just one hit.
“We haven't seen (Lawson) at all before,” Highland coach Paul Scifres said. “We weren't sure what to expect. But we just wanted to get on top of the softball and we didn't execute.”
Palmyra had four hits, and Cameron O'Brien had two of them. Lovelace had two RBIs.
Palmyra scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning on just one hit. A pair of walks with the bases loaded and a passed ball scored the Panthers' three runs.