Eureka squeezes out a championship in Suburban South/West Tournament
By: Warren Mayes
Eureka lost the championship last year 1-0 to Parkway South on a walk-off squeeze bunt. Oh, what a difference a year makes.
This time, the Wildcats won on walk-off squeeze bunt at the Chesterfield Athletic Association. Eureka scored a 2-1 victory over Webster Groves to win the title. The Wildcats improved to a spotless 6-0 on the season.
“The girls remembered last year, but we never talked about it,” said Eureka coach Mark Mosley, who has eight girls back from last year’s Final Four team. “After the tournament, one player of mine said she was hoping to play Parkway South in the championship for a rematch of last year’s game. I don’t think the girls are needing any motivation from last year. Their motivation is already there to win and play hard.”
Going into the tournament, Mosley believed his girls were in good shape. He had a veteran squad to play.
“I thought we had a pretty good shot at winning the tournament, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy,” said Mosley, whose top-seeded club had never won it to his knowledge. “At the seed meeting, there were a lot of coaches pointing out how many girls they have returning this year, so I expected the competition in the winner’s bracket to be pretty tough.
“I feel like the tourney has some more depth and fewer teams that just go out and dominate. There were a lot of higher seeds knocking out lower ones, and some teams getting surprised. I think that’s a pretty good indication that there aren’t really any teams that will just be rolling over this year. Any team can win on any given day.”
Eureka started off by winning its first two games in romps. The Wildcats whipped Parkway Central 15-0 and then blanked Summit 7-0.
“In both of the first games, I thought we could have been better offensively,” Mosley said. “We relied more on the other teams’ mistakes rather than creating our own chances. Against Parkway Central, we had a lot of free bases from walks, and against Summit we got some help from a few extra bases. The Summit game was a lot closer than the final score indicates.
“It was 0-0 until about the fourth inning, and they had opportunities to score first with bases loaded and one out, but we got a strikeout and a popup to end the threat.”
Despite the high run totals, Mosley said his hitters have yet to really dominate.
“I am still waiting for us to click offensively this year,” Mosley said. “Once we can do that we will be a team to really watch out for, so hopefully we get it going. But our defense and pitching have been outstanding, and I know that those will keep us in every game.”
In the semifinals, the Wildcats held off Parkway West to advance to the title game with a 6-4 victory.
“That was a good game,” Mosley said. “Their outfielders made some great plays that saved a couple of runs and baserunners, and their defense played very solidly all game. Their pitcher threw strikes consistently, and they had a big inning to get back in to the game.
“Luckily I was able to call in a great pitcher (Maddie Krumrey) to shut the door when things got tough.”
Webster Groves defeated Parkway North, Parkway South and Oakville to reach the title game.
The Wildcats struck first. In the second inning, Eureka had a runner on second with two outs, and Jamie Fowle hit a double down the line.
“It was a big deal to get a run before Webster because I knew it was going to be a really low-scoring affair,” Mosley said. “We’ve done a pretty good job of getting hits with two outs this year, so it was good to see it happen again.”
In the fifth inning, Webster Groves got baserunners on first and third with less than two outs.
“They scored a run on two defensive miscues on our part on just one pitch,” Mosley said. “We missed a pitchout and we didn’t execute on our first and third play, and they capitalized by getting the runner from third in on the errant throw.”
The score remained knotted until the bottom of the seventh when Eureka was up.
Allie Craft led off with a hard-hit single.
“Allie is a good runner, but I had a girl (senior Kristin McIntyre) on the bench that is faster, so I decided to roll the dice and sub her in to pinch run, rather than keeping her as my courtesy runner,” Mosley said. “I wanted to win it that inning.”
McIntyre stole second and then advanced to third on a soft-hit ball to the hole between short and third. That put runners on the corners. After an out, Mosley made his move.
“I decided to try a squeeze, even though the infield was drawn in,” Mosley said. “The way (Emma) Buckles had been pitching, I didn’t want to risk not giving my pinch runner the opportunity to use her legs. I was nervous about the call, but I felt confident that we would execute properly.”
Catcher Syd Tockman bunted on the first pitch and got it down perfectly. McIntyre streamed home and scored the game-winning run.
“It was a very exciting end to a great game,” Mosley said. “I was proud that the girls executed, and I was happy for the team to take the tournament. I’ve demanded a lot of them, and they’ve worked hard and have supported one another all year, so they deserved to get some satisfaction from it.”
“Placing second two years in a row would have been disappointing for them, so I was happy for my girls.”
The Wildcats did not go crazy, Mosley said. However, they did show some emotion.
“Actually, the girls have been very businesslike with all of the games,” Mosley said. “We all feel as though every game is winnable, and so after wins, I think the girls just have a feeling like that’s what they were supposed to do. I think the coaches have shown more pleasure in the results than the girls, at least until the championship.
“The championship win was the first time we saw them smiling after a game. When I was talking to them after the game, one of the girls asked me how I expected them to sit down because they were excited, so I told them they could stand for the rest of my talk.”
Krumrey solidified her role as the Eureka ace. She shut out Summit and picked up the save against Parkway West. She was winning pitcher against Webster Grove. Jessica Poore, Allie Webb and Jamie Fowle were the top hitters in the tournament.
Mosley said he is proud of how his Wildcats have started this season.
“It’s a nice start to the season; it shows the girls that they can earn things from their hard work, and it keeps the spirits high,” Mosley said. “And frankly, being the No. 1 seed in the tournament put a lot of pressure on us to perform well, so a big part of me was just relieved that we put forth a good showing.”
Winning this tournament after two years of being the runnerup is satisfying, Mosley said. However, he added he believes his program is known for playing good softball.
“I don’t know that I’d say the tournament win is a huge deal for the program, but it is pretty cool,” Mosley said. “I think our program has been respected for a while now, but it is nice to win a regular season tournament since we haven’t done so in a while.
“But ultimately, it’s just a tournament, albeit a good one. We care more about districts than any tournament. Any coach will trade regular season tournament championships for district championships. I guess you could say it helps erase last year’s results to Parkway South, but we all see this season as a new year, so we aren’t really too obsessed with last season. Last year had its ups and downs like any year, and we just try to build on both and hope that it helps us in the future.”
Mosley said he will remind his girls the end of the season is what counts in softball.
“Our strong start this year is important, but we’d rather end strong than start strong,” Mosley said. “I don’t think we’ve gelled yet offensively though, so I’m not entirely satisfied with where we are as a team. We have high goals this year, and we need some things to happen before we’re able to meet those goals.
“We are happy with our start, but I know and the girls know that we have a long season, and other teams will be getting better along the way, too.”
Eureka has little time to enjoy its tourney victory. The Wildcats host Oakville at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 4) and then Fort Zumwalt West at 4:15 Thursday before playing at Parkway South at 4:15 p.m. Friday. This weekend, the Wildcats playing in a tournament at Arnold.