MISSOULA — After three days of topsy-turvy pool play, the ZooTown All-Stars secured a semifinal berth Sunday night with a confidence-boosting win.
Missoula's representative in the Senior League Softball West Regional steamrolled over Nevada in a knockout game that lasted six innings, 25-5, at the Dale Clawson Complex. ZooTown beat the same Nevada team Sunday morning, 20-2, but limped out of pool play with a 3-3 record after losing to Arizona in the afternoon, 10-8.
Missoula endured a good share of adversity en route to earning its semifinal date with top-seeded Hawaii on Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. Manager Dennis Staves lost two of his pitchers to injury, including Kendra Jacobs in the evening and ace Charlee Hoover, who tweaked her ankle in the morning.
Jadyn Gagner picked up the slack in the circle. She threw three innings against Arizona and all six in the night game against Nevada.
"Jadyn just gritted it out and we gave her a lot of run support," Staves said.
"I was very satisfied with today's hitting. Even in the game we lost, we hit the ball really well. The first part of the tournament we were struggling. Right now we seem to have found the bats. You never know what's going to happen now."
ZooTown has a history with Hawaii, losing to the island team in the finals last season. Staves is hoping to have Jacobs (back injury) back by Tuesday but he's uncertain about Hoover, who used crutches to get around in the dugout Sunday night.
"We'll see if we can make the magic happen again," he said of Tuesday's semifinal round, which also includes a showdown between Arizona and Southern California.
"We're very happy with what we got done. Dang-near the whole team is 13 years old. The future is really bright if we can keep the kids involved with this. We're losing just two or three off this team."
ZooTown wasted no time in jumping on Nevada in its final game Sunday. Gagner led off the top of the first with a triple and scored on an Ava McPhillips base hit. Missoula added a run with the help of an error before Makennah Hewitt delivered a two-RBI single.
Missoula stretched its lead to 8-0 in the third. Nevada's shaky defensive play helped the host's cause. The Yerington-based team committed six errors.
Grace Hood and Delaney Laird led ZooTown offensively with four hits apiece. Gagner had a game-high four RBIs.
3-3 in pool play
Missoula's all-stars started Sunday with a bang, whipping Nevada, 20-2.
ZooTown pounced on Nevada starting pitcher Cassie Edgmon, who allowed six walks and was victimized by anemic defensive play. Edgmon lasted just 1 1/3 innings, allowing 14 runs — only five of them earned — on three hits.
The game lasted just three innings. Jacobs earned the pitching win, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out three in four frames. Jacobs and Gagner each had two hits to lead the ZooTown offense. Gagner and Hewitt each collected three RBIs.
Missoula's final pool play game was a back-and-forth affair. The lead changed hands four times before Arizona emerged with its 10-8 win.
ZooTown jumped to a 2-0 lead and held a 6-4 advantage heading into the fourth frame. And in the end, Missoula finished with a 14-8 edge in hits.
But Arizona did a better job capitalizing on its scoring opportunities. Jacobs started in the circle for Missoula and gave up eight runs on six hits with four walks in four innings of duty. She took the loss.
Key to the outcome was Arizona's four-run surge in the top of the fourth that gave it an 8-6 lead. Jacobs was stung by a two-RBI single and a two-run home run to dead center field.
Gagner came on in the fifth and allowed two runs on two hits in three innings of duty.
Jacobs and Ava McPhillips shared the team lead in hits for ZooTown with three apiece. Jacobs also tallied a game-high four RBIs.
Bill Speltz is the Deputy Sports Editor of the Missoulian. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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