The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

October 11, 2012

McAuley, Pierce City jockey for position in district softball

By Richard Polen
Globe Sports Writer

— Pierce City faces a rugged assignment on Saturday in the quarterfinal round of the MSHSAA Class 2 softball playoffs.

The Eagles (19-6), on the road for the second game in a row, travel to Pleasant Hope (25-2) for the noon contest.

“We’re coming off a great win (beating Lamar 1-0),” Pierce City coach Kacy Gunnels said on Thursday. “We have to play our game. We have to continue doing what we’ve been doing — making routine plays and hitting.”

Gunnels, who’s in her first season as head coach of the Eagles, knows the history of Pleasant Hope.

“They (the Pirates) are a solid all-around team,” she said. “We know they were second in Class 2 last season.”

Pleasant Hope, coached by Jim Flora, has lost to Nixa and Carthage this season. Ironically, those losses were at home.

Perhaps the most impressive fact about the Pirates is their being derailed in the postseason the last three seasons by eventual state champions with Palmyra the spoiler in 2011. They didn’t lose last season, of course, until the final.

Flora plans to pitch right-hander Sarah Siegismund, whom he considers the ace for all of her four seasons, on the mound against the Eagles.

Offensive leaders include senior catcher Catlin Evans.

“She’s fast, leads off and is hitting about .500,” Flora said. “She’s our offensive catalyst.”

Shortstop Kari Hillenburg, a senior, carries a .600 average and has a whopping 52 RBI from the No. 3 hole, Flora said.

No. 4 hitter Hailey Richardson packs a .450 average and her RBI total is down from last season, Flora said, probably because Hillenburg has been so effective.

Pleasant Hope eliminated Iberia 11-0 in the sectional round.

The Pierce City-Pleasant Hope winner tackles Palmyra or South Callaway at 11 a.m. in the semifinals on Oct. 19. Pierce City is seeking its first semifinal berth in its second playoff appearance,

Palmyra beat Elsberry 16-0 in the first round.