CARL JUNCTION, Mo. — A trio of defensive gems allowed the Carthage Tigers to secure a 4-3 victory over Carl Junction on a warm Tuesday afternoon in Central Ozark Conference prep softball action.

Clinging to a one-run lead, the Tigers threw out the potential tying run at the plate in the fourth inning, recorded a crucial double play in the sixth and then ended the game with a diving catch on the infield.

“Our defense really made some nice plays, and we did enough to get a win,” Carthage coach Mike Godfrey said. “We feel good about winning a tight game. We feel like we should have added to our lead, but we weren’t able to do that. We had to scrap and battle all the way.”

Carl Junction coach Zak Petty noted he was proud of his team’s performance.

“We stayed in the game. We’re doing things right, and that’s all you can ask for,” Petty said. “Of course, we wanted to win, but I’ll take a positive performance like that. It was a great effort. We feel good about it.”

Senior Emily Calhoon started in the circle for the Tigers and went three innings before sophomore Jensen Elder tossed four scoreless frames in relief.

“Jensen did a great job of coming in and putting up zeroes,” Godfrey said.

Carthage (4-4) received two hits apiece from senior catcher Hallie Patrick and senior center fielder Aubrey Willis. Landry Cochran doubled, while Natalie Rodriguez, Karlee Kinder, Averi Heese and Katie Crowe contributed singles.

Sophomore Jayden Green went the distance in the circle for the Carl Junction.

Junior right fielder Saedra Allen and sophomore catcher Allison Plumlee had two hits apiece for the Bulldogs (1-5). Freshman Sammie Sims, senior Maddy Bowers and sophomore Addie Brock added one hit apiece.

The Tigers pushed across two runs in the top of the first inning, as Willis singled and Cochran doubled before Patrick delivered a run-scoring single into left field. The second run scored on an error. The Bulldogs answered with a single tally in the bottom half as Emme Beaver drew a bases-loaded walk.

Carthage added two runs in the third. Patrick doubled, Rodriguez singled, with an error on the same play allowing a run to score. After Kinder reached on an error, Heese delivered an RBI single to right.

Carl Junction trimmed its deficit to a single run in the third. Plumlee singled, with pinch runner Jamie Fabozzi later scoring after two errors. Beaver later charged home on a wild pitch, making it 4-3.

The Bulldogs had a chance to tie the game in the fourth, as Bowers reached on an error and Brock singled. Plumlee singled, but pinch runner Kadynce Arnold was thrown out at the plate by Carthage’s Willis, with Patrick applying the tag.

“Aubrey made a great play,” Godfrey noted.

In the sixth, the Tigers turned a key double play when Patrick caught Bryn Neria’s pop up and then threw to first for a twin killing. Carl Junction was down to its last out when Green hit a line drive up the middle before Carthage’s Kinder made a game-ending diving catch.

“Those type of defensive plays were a real positive for us,” Godfrey said. “We needed those. Carl Junction is much-improved. They’re doing a good job.”

“Carthage is a solid team and they play really solid defense,” Petty said. “They’re not going to make a lot of errors, and if they do, you have to take advantage of them.”

As far as his team’s season outlook, Petty noted his team has the potential for a solid campaign.

“We have all but two starters back from last year,” Petty noted, with Izabella Burgess and Bowers the lone seniors. “Our new starters are a freshman at shortstop (Sims) and a sophomore at third base (Brock). We’ve seen a lot of good things already this season. We need to improve on a few things, but I think we’ll get there.”

Both teams hit the road for conference dates on Thursday as Carthage is at Nixa and Carl Junction is at Republic.