Oct. 13—WEBB CITY, Mo. — Doing the little things always pays off, especially in a postseason game when tension is at an all-time high.
In the bottom of the fifth, Anissa Ramirez proved her worth.
Ramirez, pinch-running for Amanda Pacheco who led off with a single, advanced to second after Nevaeh Dodson was plunked. Ramirez took off for third before Jacie Frencken drew ball four for a walk and drew a wild throw from Webb City catcher Elizabeth Rhuems.
A sophomore, Ramirez sprinted home for the run, breaking the 1-1 tie as the second-seeded Mustangs topped third-seeded Webb City 3-1 in the Class 4 District 7 semifinals on Wednesday night at WCHS.
"We talk about all phases of the game: throw strikes, play defense, timely hitting but baserunning as well," McDonald County coach Heath Alumbaugh said. "That was heads up baserunning by Anissa. She came on in that spot and never even slowed down turning the corner, knew what was going on. It was a big run."
Then in the sixth, Anissa's older sister, Analisa, put the finishing touches on the win with an opposite field solo blast. The Mustangs, improving to 22-9 overall, have advanced to their fifth consecutive district title game.
McDonald County, looking for its first district title since 2019, plays top-seeded Nevada at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.
"It always feels good," Alumbaugh said. "It's where we want to be every year. I think we also understand how lucky we are to be there that many times. Talking to the girls just now, I don't think it's going to be a take it for granted situation. We'll be ready to go."
Both teams were locked in a pitcher's duel early in the contest. McDonald County's Dodson had it working, striking out eight of the first nine batters she faced.
But Webb City's offense got going in the top of the fourth. Junior Kylee Sargeant jumped on a first pitch offering from Dodson and deposited it over the left-center field fence as the Cardinals took an early 1-0 lead.
The Mustangs' offense cracked the scoreboard against Cardinal hurler Laney Taylor in the bottom half of the frame. Frencken popped a long ball to deadlock the score.
Later in the game, Analisa Ramirez' home run proved to be big for McDonald County, giving it much-needed insurance before the seventh.
"Analisa has been hot here towards the end of the season," Alumbaugh said. "In the Carthage tournament, she goes double off the top of the wall. She starts the game with a shot down the line. We knew it was coming. It couldn't have come in a better spot."
Dodson worked around a one-out walk to Sydney Strickland with a fly out and pop up to seal the win for the Mustangs. The junior finished with 14 strikeouts in the complete-game victory.
"She's always going to go out and compete her butt off in the circle," Alumbaugh said. "If you give her some run support, we always have a chance."
Dodson and Pacheco paced McDonald County's offense with two hits apiece.
Taylor suffered the tough-luck loss for Webb City. She allowed two earned runs on six hits with seven strikeouts and one walk in six innings.
Second baseman Lily Hall tallied two hits to lead the Cardinals offense. Webb City finished 17-20 overall and returns a solid core with no seniors on this year's roster.
"We knew we could compete with Mac County based on how we played last Monday," Cardinals coach Shauna Friend said. "We competed. I'm incredibly proud of this team. They have grown a lot this season. Of course, we are upset about not continuing in the postseason. I know they are upset right now, but I don't think they realize how much potential they do have in the coming years being so young and gaining so much experience for a young team. I'm excited about next year."
Nevada received a spark late from an unlikely source in the other semifinal game.
After seeing a 5-1 lead erased by Willard, Nevada's 9-hole hitter Caiden Blake collected a walk-off bunt single to send the top-seeded Tigers to the district finals.
The bottom of the seventh started with Kara Phillips reaching on a fielding error.
Teresa Dawn was then hit by a pitch and Kaleiah Johnson received an intentional walk to load up the bases for Blake's heroics.
Nevada, improving to 24-11 overall, defeated McDonald County 4-2 on the road in eight innings on Sept. 28 during the regular season.
"Great ball club," Alumbaugh said. "It will be a dogfight tomorrow. We're looking forward to it."