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Notre Dame reaches Class 3 final in 13-inning thriller
ST. JOSEPH -- Notre Dame senior Nikki Chambers started on the bench in Friday's Class 3 semifinal game against Kirksville.
But by the top of the 13th inning, she stepped to the plate with a chance to be the hero.
Chambers dropped down a suicide-squeeze bunt to the right of the mound with one out in the 13th inning and the score tied 2-2.
The bunt was placed so perfectly that it rolled past the drawn-in first baseman and Notre Dame pinch-runner Brianne Sanders scored from third without a throw to the plate. Chambers also made it safely to first base on the play.
Chambers' hit proved to be the game-winner.
Bulldogs pitcher Lauren Reinagel allowed a leadoff single in the bottom of the 13th, but she retired the next three hitters as Notre Dame won a thriller 3-2 at Heritage Park.
Notre Dame (28-0) advanced to play Platte County (29-3) at 3 p.m. today in the Class 3 title game. Platte County won its semifinal game 2-0 over Republic.
Chambers did not get into the game until the 11th inning as a defensive replacement.
She then replaced designated hitter Alexis Ralls, who was batting seventh in the order.
With runners at first and third, Chambers said she was expecting Notre Dame coach Jeff Graviett to ask her to suicide squeeze.
"We practice [bunting] every day," Chambers said. "I try to practice it as much as I can. I was just up there motivated and really wanted to do good. I was just hoping to get it down and get it past everybody. The first baseman I think was up, and it got past her and I was just booking it. I was running my heart out."
Chambers described sitting on the bench and being called upon late to play as nerve-racking. She said she had accepted her role as cheerleader and wasn't expecting to be put in the game.
"I'm like ecstatic," Chambers said. "My hands are shaking. My knees are weak."
Graviett said he replaced Ralls with Chambers because Ralls has been slumping lately.
"We have 11 good hitters," Graviett said. "Alexis has been in a little bit of a funk. She didn't look real comfortable at the plate against [Kirksville pitcher Jackie Bishop] today, and I just made the decision. There was really not a whole lot into it. It was just a gut decision. Nikki is a senior and she's battle tested, too. Giving her the opportunity, she came through with the big squeeze for us."
Notre Dame took a 1-0 lead in the sixth when Erika Reinagel reached on an error and scored on Paris Burger's one-out single to center.
"I wasn't nervous," said Burger, who missed last year's final four with an ACL injury. "I was excited being back here. Since freshman year, I haven't played [in the final four]. I was ready. I wanted the game. I wanted to do it."
Lauren Reinagel struck out the first two batters in the sixth with the lead, but then gave up a solo home run to Danielle Lewellen.
The game remained tied until the top of the 11th, when Notre Dame's Mallory Siebert singled over the shortstop to score a run from third for a 2-1 lead.
But Kirksville again answered against Reinagel in the bottom of the inning with a two-out RBI single to left that made it 2-2.
In the top of the 13th, Britney Schott singled to left with one out and moved to second base on an error by the left fielder.
Mallory Siebert then bunted for a hit to put runners at the corners for Chambers, who delivered.
Lauren Reinagel went all 13 innings. She gave up six hits and one walk. She struck out 16. She said Chambers was the star Friday.
"[Chambers] wasn't upset that she wasn't playing this game," Lauren Reinagel said. "She came out and just did amazing. She was player of the game for me. She did her job."