WEBB CITY, Mo. — Emma Welch made sure the first game of her senior season was a memorable one.
Welch smacked a game-winning double into left-center in the bottom of the seventh inning, lifting Webb City to a 5-4 walk-off win over Nevada on Monday in the 2021 season opener at Chuck Barnes Field.
“I knew as a senior it was my time to step up,” Welch said. “I knew what I had to do. I had full confidence in myself and I knew my teammates had confidence in me. I went up there with confidence and it worked out for me.”
Last year’s Class 4 runner-up, the Cardinals overcame a four-run deficit and the game was deadlocked entering the bottom of the seventh inning.
With one out, senior designated hitter Shelby Gardner reached when the Tigers were unable to corral her line drive to third base. She later took second on a wild pitch.
A returning all-state and all-conference center fielder, Welch stepped into the batter’s box with two outs. On a 2-0 count, Welch delivered a game-ending RBI double into the gap in left-center, setting off a celebration for the hosts.
“It was an inside pitch and it felt amazing off the bat,” Welch said. “She did amazing pitching on the outside corner. I was expecting it outside, she came with it inside and I took my opportunity. It felt so good coming off the bat. It was an amazing way to start the season.”
“We were in a great spot,” Webb City coach Shauna Friend said. “Shelby did a great job of getting on. That gave us an opportunity to win. Then we had Peyton (Hawkins) and Emma. We knew one of them was going to get the job done.”
The Cardinals played down the road from their usual home field because the renovations at the softball facility aren’t quite complete.
Nevada received a run-scoring ground out from Kirstin Buck in the first. A junior third baseman, Buck launched a three-run home run to left in the third, giving the visitors a four-run cushion.
Webb City senior shortstop Peyton Hawkins, another returning all-state and all-conference performer, connected for a solo home run to left in the third.
The Cardinals added two runs in the fifth on senior Morgan Brannon’s homer to left-center and Hawkins’ RBI triple to left that allowed Gardner to charge home.
Webb City tied it up in the sixth when senior catcher Kaylyn Gilbert homered to left. The team’s late heroics followed in the final frame.
“It’s always good to open a season with a win,” Friend said. “We have some things to work on. We knew the other team was going to hit, and we just had to respond. It took us a while. But we put things together and got it done. I was pretty pleased. And this is a fun group.”
The Cardinals recorded eight hits, and three were home runs. Hawkins and Gardner had two hits apiece.
Webb City freshman Laney Taylor was the winning pitcher. In her prep debut, Taylor allowed four runs on four hits and three walks while striking out six.
“I thought she had a great first game,” Friend said. “I know she was a little nervous. She did a great job of controlling her nerves and doing the job we needed.”
Nevada freshman Peyton Eaton took the loss. She surrendered four runs on eight hits and a walk while striking out three.
Buck drove in all four runs for Nevada (2-3).
Webb City (1-0) will host Monett on Thursday at either Chuck Barnes Field or the high school softball stadium.