The Bulldogs nipped Perryville 3-2 on two-out, game-ending error
FESTUS, Mo. -- Notre Dame boasts one of the most dominant and highly regarded softball programs in the state.
The Bulldogs have won most of their games handily with machine-like precision this season. They finished second in the state in 2008 and third in 2007.
Perryville, on the other hand, is a scrappy team that seemingly came out of nowhere to set the record for the most victories in the program's history.
The heavily favored Bulldogs barely won, 3-2, in their Class 3 District 2 championship game Monday to earn a spot in the sectionals.
This victory did not come easily.
"We worked very hard all year to win," said Notre Dame's Brianne Sanders, who ended up being the unlikely hero of the game, "but I never thought it would happen like this."
The game was supposed to be played last week, but was moved due to storms in the area. What was originally a two-day event was compacted into one day thanks to the bad weather. That meant both Perryville and Notre Dame needed a win earlier in the day to square off for the title.
Thirty minutes after both of these contests wrapped up, the two local teams squared off for the district crown.
It started as a duel between the two pitcher, with both Notre Dame's Lauren Reinagel and Perryville's Casey Hotop fooling plenty of hitters.
Notre Dame's bats came alive a little bit in the second, as sophomore Summer Burger hit a single that drove in Alecia Glaus. But the Bulldogs' spurt ended when Burger was caught stealing.
The Pirates went on the attack in the sixth. Two successive base hits put runners on second and third when Casey Brewer stepped up to bat. She laid down a perfect bunt, which allowed a runner to score, and as the catcher chased after the ball and threw it to first, another runner scored. Brewer's sacrifice put her team ahead by a run.
"At that point, I really thought we had a good chance," Brewer said.
Reinagel admitted she was a little nervous watching it unfold.
"Luckily, my teammates reminded me to keep my head in the game," she said.
The Pirates clung to a one-run lead over the heavily favored Bulldogs as the game headed into the final half-inning.
Things started to turn a foul for Perryville when Hotop walked two Bulldogs batters and Burger connected for a single.
Sanders stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. She wasted little time, hitting a grounder toward the glove of Perryville third baseman Rebecca Hanquist. The Perryville senior scooped it up but made an awkward throw, which sailed over first base. Two Bulldogs runners raced home to score the decisive runs.
"I didn't even see where the ball was," Sanders said. "All I was thinking was that I had better run really fast to first base. I was so busy concentrating on that, I didn't even realize that we'd won until I heard everyone screaming."
Ecstatic Notre Dame players flooded out on to the field.
Reinagel said that she was standing on a bucket in the dugout, watching the final at-bat, and was so excited and overwhelmed that she fell off and hurt herself. Most of the players on the field were in tears. Notre Dame players cried out of joy and relief, while Perryville cried in disappointment.
"I didn't want it to end like this," Hotop said, fighting back tears. "We played so good together. Still, it was really cool to have the chance to play against them."
"I'm disappointed, but I'm also very proud," Perryville coach Jeff Steffens said. "We did everything we could possibly do except get that last out."
The victorious Bulldogs move on to sectionals, where they'll face DeSoto in Potosi.
For the Pirates, it was an excruciating end to a successful season.
"We've won more games than any other softball team there," Pirates catcher Morgan Baer said. "That, and we almost beat Notre Dame ..."
Notre Dame's offense cruised past Kennett 12-0.
The Bulldogs capitalized on numerous Indians errors and got a two-run homer from Jane Morrill and a grand slam from Brooke Glastetter.
Reinagel picked up the win.
Perryville earned the right to compete for the title with a 5-2 victory over Festus. Courtney Hotop knocked in a pair, while Ashley Hotop drove in one.
Casey Hotop earned the win in the circle.