DAKOTA – It was only fitting that Milledgeville's Morgan Adolph was at the plate with the chance to finish off Wednesday's Class 1A Dakota Sectional semifinal softball game against Amboy.
Already with three hits in three at-bats, including an RBI double and a two-run home run, the junior third baseman didn't disappoint. With the Missiles' 11th run just 60 feet away, she delivered a line-drive single right back up the middle to plate Taylor Grenoble in the bottom of the sixth inning to close out Milledgeville's 11-1 victory.
"We wanted to finish strong," Adolph said, "and that was the best way to do that. We came out and scored early, got the momentum going our way. Once we got them down, we just kept going."
Adolph's monster offensive game backed Emily Bush's three-hit, eight-strikeout performance. Besides Kaitlyn Appleman's solo home run to right field, the Milledgeville senior (14-1) allowed just two bloop singles and three walks, throwing 58 of her 87 pitches for strikes.
The Missiles (24-3) got Bush all the run support she would need in the second inning. Courtney Swalve and Adolph led off with back-to-back singles, then moved up on Kayleigh Leddy's groundout. Courtesy runner Kenna Bibler scored on Kelsey Hayen's grounder that turned into an error, then Liz Bryant drove in Adolph with a sac bunt that turned into another error.
After a flyout, Ally Bush and Taylor Grenoble ripped back-to-back singles, Grenoble's scoring Hayen. Bryant then scored on a wild pitch before Emily Bush grounded into a fielder's choice to close out the five-run frame.
"We know once we get a big inning like that, Emily will take care of the rest," Hayen said. "We're very aggressive running the bases, and we like to take advantage of what the other team gives us whenever we can."
Hayen added another RBI on a groundout, capping a two-run third after Adolph's RBI double. Hayen had a single and two RBIs, and none of her batted balls left the infield.
"She kept jamming me," Hayen said, referring to Amboy senior pitcher Lauren Akre. "I'm just glad I could put the ball in play and help the team."
Amboy (16-8) tried to turn things around in the top of the fifth. After Kaitlyn Liebing walked to lead off the inning, Destinee Oenes laid down a sacrifice bunt. But after Emily Bush fired to first for the out, first baseman Leddy threw to second baseman Grenoble to tag out Liebing, who had rounded second on the play.
Appleman followed with her homer, a fastball right in the middle of the plate that she made sure she didn't miss.
"She gave me a good pitch, and I knew I had to do something with it ... or my dad would be mad," Appleman said. "At first, I thought it just burned the right fielder, but nobody told me to stop running or slow down, so I just kept sprinting.
"I didn't know it was a home run until I got to third base, but that's OK; I don't really trot, anyway."
Akre followed with a base hit, but Bush prompted a pop out to first for the final out of the fifth. Then, after a one-out walk in the sixth, the Missiles took all the wind out of the Clippers' sails with another double play, this time on a soft liner back to Bush; she doubled off the runner at first to end the inning.
Adolph got the momentum back in the bottom of the fifth, answering Appleman's solo shot with her two-run job to straightaway center field, driving in herself and Bibler – for the third time. That pushed the margin to 9-1, and Ally Bush's sac fly and Adolph's two-out RBI single finished things off early an inning later.
"I think that homer said that we weren't going to let them take the momentum away from us," said Adolph, who, like the aforementioned momentum, is also called "Mo" by the Milledgeville faithful. "I wanted to pick up Emily, and not let them get back in it."
Akre (13-7) allowed seven earned runs and nine hits, striking out one and walking three. She had to deal with four errors behind her, and Amboy saw its season ended in the sectional by the Missiles for the second straight season; the Clippers lost 4-0 in a Bush no-hitter in last year's 1A Eastland championship.
"We had a couple of unfortunate plays, and Milledgeville is too good a team to have that happen," Amboy coach Kelly Whitman said. "They took advantage of everything, and that's just part of the game. It just shows how good that team over there really is."
Class 1A Dakota Sectional semifinal
Milledgeville 11, Amboy 1, 6 innings
Star of the game: Morgan Adolph, Milledgeville, 4-for-4, 2B, HR, 4 RBIs
Key performers: Emily Bush, Milledgeville, 3-hitter, 1 ER, 8 SO, 3 BB; Kelsey Hayen, Milledgeville, 2 RBIs; Kaitlyn Appleman, Amboy, solo HR
Up next: Class 1A Dakota Sectional final, Milledgeville vs. Orangeville, 11 a.m. Saturday