Canton escapes tenuous seventh-inning jam, captures fourth straight district championship

Canton district

The Canton softball team outlasted North Shelby 3-2 in nine innings to win the Class 1 District 9 championship Saturday in Shelbyville, Mo. | Submitted photo

SHELBYVILLE, Mo. — Some confusion about the rules regarding pitching circle visits put the Canton softball team in a precarious position with the season on the brink Saturday afternoon.

Yet, the Tigers never flinched.

With the Class 1 District 9 championship game tied at 2 in the bottom of the seventh and North Shelby having loaded the bases with one out, Canton coach Kristyn Caldwell-Arens was told she had to remove pitcher Emma Hultz following a third visit from the dugout.

Technically, that should not have happened until the next visit.

Caldwell-Arens argued for that, but to no avail.

“After the game, (the umpires) told me I was right,” Caldwell-Arens said.

By then, the drama was over. Canton’s Allie Ruffcorn replaced Hultz in the circle, throwing one pitch and inducing a popout to Hultz in foul territory down the first-base line. Hultz returned to the circle and struck out the Raiders’ Caroline Linberger to end the threat and force extra innings.

Two innings later, the Tigers’ Macie Fisher doubled with two outs to drive in Macy Glasgow with the go-ahead run, and Hultz retired North Shelby in order in the bottom of the ninth to preserve the 3-2 victory and Canton’s fourth consecutive district title.

“My heart was just … yeah,” Caldwell-Arens said. “It was insane.”

Canton (23-5) advances to face La Plata (18-10) in Wednesday’s sectionals at La Plata.

“At times, it wasn’t our prettiest effort,” Caldwell-Arens said. “We had some errors and some plays we should have made. They just found a way to keep battling and not give up.”

The Tigers grabbed the lead in the top of the second when Kinsey Biggerstaff led off by reaching on an error, was sacrificed to second, stole third and scored on Kielyn Ott’s two-out, bases-loaded single. In the fourth, Ruffcorn led off with a walk and scored three batters later on a wild pitch.

North Shelby scratched across a run in the bottom of the fourth and tied the game in the fifth on Natalie Thrasher’s groundout.

It stayed that way despite the Raiders loading the bases in the seventh. Escaping that jam changed the Tigers’ outlook.

“I felt like luck was on our side,” Caldwell-Arens said. “Our luck was turning.”

Biggerstaff went 2 for 4 as the Tigers collected seven hits. Hultz struck out nine, walked none and allowed no earned runs over 8 ⅔ innings to earn the victory.

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