SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Mount Vernon’s 29th straight victory of the 2023 season was similar to many of the wins that preceded it — one-sided and emphatic.
Top-ranked Mount Vernon earned a convincing 6-0 win over second-ranked West County in the championship game of the Class 2 spring softball state tournament on Tuesday at the Killian Softball Complex.
Dominant on the diamond all season, Mount Vernon ends the season with a record of 37-1.
It’s safe to say the Mountaineers left no doubt as to who was the best spring softball team in the state of Missouri.
“I feel like we left no doubt,” Mount Vernon coach Matt Schubert said. “I knew if we played our best, we were going to be able to win the game. I don’t want to take anything away from West County. They were great. That was a tough game.
“The girls have put in the work. Looking back on the season, it’s just been an unbelievable performance all the way through. It’s been fun. As a coach, you work in practice to get them prepared. When it comes to the games, it’s all up to them. They’ve done a great job of executing the things we wanted to do. We’ve had some great performances.”
Moments after the awards ceremony concluded, Mount Vernon senior standout pitcher Harley Daniels came to the realization that her squad had accomplished its goal of winning a state title.
“I’m sad that it’s ended, but I’m very happy it ended this way,” an emotional Daniels said. “It’s been the best three years…to end it this way is the best. We’ve all had a love of the game. I think that’s what really drives us to do well.”
After run-rule wins in both the quarterfinals and semifinals, the Mountaineers concluded the season with another decisive victory.
Mount Vernon pushed across four runs in the bottom of the first inning to take control early.
With two outs, senior first baseman Allie Schubert walked before Daniels smacked an RBI double to right field.
After sophomore catcher Rae Downing was hit by a pitch, sophomore center fielder Cheyenne Bieber delivered a two-run triple to left.
Freshman third baseman Hali Stokes followed with a run-scoring single through the left side for a four-run cushion.
Mount Vernon added a single tally in the second, as junior second baseman Payge Evans singled and stole second. Evans charged home when sophomore shortstop Molly Daniels lined an RBI single up the middle, making it 5-0.
The Bulldogs (24-4) stranded two on-base in the fourth and sixth innings, as Harley Daniels maneuvered out of trouble on both occasions, ending each frame with a strikeout.
Mount Vernon added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth. Stokes was hit by a pitch and sophomore designated player Ava Bellis singled before the speedy Evans drove in the final run with an infield single.
Evans’ late hit was significant. Coach Schubert said Evans, the team’s leadoff batter, broke the state record for hits in a season with 76.
In yet another stellar performance in the circle, Harley Daniels tossed a complete-game shutout, limiting the Bulldogs to five hits and one walk. She struck out nine in her final prep outing.
“She’s been a steady force in the circle,” Coach Schubert said. “She gives us the opportunity to win each time out. We knew she would keep things close. I liked the offensive opportunities that we got. And we were able to cash in on them.”
Daniels noted the early run support was key.
“It was relieving,” she said. “I just could go out there and do what I know how to do. If they hit the ball, I know my defense is there.”
Speaking of defense, the Mountaineers were flawless in the field with no errors.
All season long the Mountaineers have received nice contributions from everyone in their lineup. This was the case again on Tuesday, as six different players recorded hits and five different players drove in a run.
Mount Vernon graduates two standout seniors, Harley Daniels and Allie Schubert.
West County senior Gracie Wright took the loss. She surrendered six earned runs on seven hits in six innings. Wright hit four batters and walked one.
Mount Vernon also won a state championship in spring softball in 2016. The Mountaineers were fourth in both 2019 and ’14.
“I’ve been able to enjoy this trip a little more,” Coach Schubert said. “This is our fourth trip to the Final Four. For me, having the experience of being here before was big. I knew what to expect. I was able to relax. And with the way our girls have played, I had the utmost confidence in them.”
In one of the final acts of the season, Coach Schubert was able to hand out championship medals to each and every one of his players.
“They’re all kind of like my kids because I’ve been around them for so long … starting in second grade and some before that in tee ball,” Coach Schubert said. “So this means a lot.”