Prize of the Tigers: Canton shows moxie in upending Polo and winning Class 1 state softball championship

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The Canton softball team celebrates after receiving its Class 1 state championship trophy following the 4-2 victory over Polo at the Killian Softball Complex in Springfield, Mo. | Photo courtesy Mary Chiles

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — An ominous beginning couldn’t darken the Canton softball team’s mood.

It certainly didn’t ruin the Tigers’ mojo either.

Under cloudy skies and dealing with windy conditions Saturday afternoon, Canton was forced to wait through an epic Class 3 state championship game in which Fatima defeated Chillicothe 16-14 and not start the Class 1 title game 75 minutes later than scheduled.

Even the stadium lights at the Killian Softball Complex were turned on at that point.

They might as well have been a spotlight for success as Canton knocked off previously undefeated Polo 4-2 to win the second state championship in program history.

None of it was a surprise for sophomore first baseman Macy Glasgow.

“At the beginning of the season I knew we were going to come out strong and that we had a very good chance at coming to state,” she said. “I was really excited and ready to hop on that train to come here. It’s a dream, but at the same time, I knew we could do it.”

The Panthers, who were 26-0 entering the game,. took the lead in the first after Tigers junior pitcher Emma Hultz walked two batters, then allowed a single to the opposing pitcher, junior Hanna Vaught, to make it 1-0.

The Tigers kept the game tight with defense. In the third, Polo sophomore Mya Heil tripled but didn’t score. In the fourth inning, the Panthers threatened, putting two runners on. But Tigers senior outfielder Madison Gorrell threw out designated player Emily Schmidt at home to end the inning. Junior catcher Kinsey Biggerstaff applied the tag.

“On the play at the plate, Madison threw it and, honestly, I just knew we needed an out so I was gonna try to do anything I could to get a big out,” Biggerstaff said.

The Canton softball team celebrates with its fans after winning the Class 1 state championship on Saturday at the Killian Softball Complex in Springfield, Mo. | Photo courtesy Mary Chiles

It began to sprinkle in the fifth, and with the rain came offense for the Tigers. Glasgow singled, and after a sacrifice bunt by sophomore Kielyn Ott, junior Macie Fisher tripled to tie the game at 1. Senior Nariah Clay beat out a bunt single, scoring Fisher to put Canton ahead 2-1. Following a walk to Biggerstaff, Hultz hit a fly ball that was misplayed in center field, scoring two more runs to make it a 4-1 lead.

Perhaps more impressively, Hultz allowed no runs in the bottom of the fifth, despite Polo advancing runners to second and third with nobody out. Good defense and two strikeouts by Hultz ended the threat.

In the seventh, Polo senior Chloe Gilbert doubled and scored on a single by Vaught. But Hultz struck out the final batter to clinch the state title.. 

When asked if she had envisioned winning state on a strikeout, Hultz was emphatic.

“I hoped!” she said.

For Gorrell, the championship was never in doubt.

“We’ve all had this feeling the whole season because everyone doubted us from the beginning,” Gorrell said. “We were expected to be not as good as last year because we lost our pitcher, but Emma really stepped up this year.”

After the team was awarded its trophy and medals, the Tigers invited their fans to join them to celebrate and Canton coach Kristyn Arens watched the crowd rush the field.

“It’s just crazy, surreal,” she said. “I knew they could do it, and they just executed and they never gave up.”

Clay scanned the Canton faithful with a grin. 

“Our community’s support is amazing,” she said.

As for the seniors? 

“I’m just soaking it all in right now,” Gorrell said. “The future is next and I can’t really worry about that right now. Just stay in the moment.”

Clay has plans for what’s next.

“We’re just gonna hang out with each other and ride the fire trucks,” she said.

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