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Kelly turns back Fatima, returns to state tourney
BALLWIN, Mo. -- Kelly sophomore Ashley Flahardy could not have had a much better "Sweet Sixteen" birthday present.
Flahardy came off the bench to deliver a bunt single in a three-run sixth inning that helped the Hawks to a 7-2 victory against Fatima on Saturday in the Class 2 state quarterfinals at Ballwin Athletic Association.
The win moves Kelly to the state tournament at the Rainbow Complex in Columbia, Mo. They will play either Westran or Mid-Buchanan in the semifinals 4:30 p.m. Friday.
"Getting to state was a nice present," Flahardy said. "But winning state would be the best present of all."
Kalie Hughes, Brittany Ponder and Summer Proctor know the feeling of a state championship. They were part of the Hawks' 2004 title team.
"We hope to do the exact same thing we did two years ago," said Hughes, who was a right fielder on that team but is the No. 1 pitcher this fall. "This was a very nerve-racking game but we were able to get through it."
The score might not indicate nerves, but it was a battle the entire way for the Hawks against the Comets.
Fatima had runners in scoring position in every inning and left a dozen runners on base, including the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
It was nerve-racking from the first inning to the seventh inning," Kelly coach Rhonda Ratledge said. "Anything could have happened when they loaded the bases in the seventh inning."
But Hughes was able to get Rachel Kleffner on a pop to first and then struck out pinch-hitter Paige Becker on three pitches to end it.
Kelly took advantage of numerous Fatima miscues in the game. The Comets had six errors, including two in the first inning that helped Kelly score two quick runs.
The Hawks added a run in the second on a two-out double by Ponder and a single by Katee Moore.
Fatima scored one in the third inning but Kelly got three huge runs in the sixth, helped by the birthday girl.
Sarah Ruff opened the inning with a single. Ashley Vetter, who had two hits in the game, reached on an error. Flahardy pinch hit for Kaitlyn Vetter. She bunted the ball past the charging right side of the infield, and it rolled into right field as Ruff scored and Vetter went to third.
"That was a huge pinch hit," Ratledge said. "She was ready to go and not only moved the runners over but scored one."
The Hawks added two more runs in the inning on another error and a single by Casey Kern, who was on base four times.
Kelly takes a 25-6 record to Columbia, while Fatima ended its season at 17-11.
"I'm looking forward to the state tournament," Ratledge said. "The '04 team had a couple of great pitchers in Whitney Beggs and Kelly Essner. This is a better hitting team than the one in '04, though."