Mexico’s streak against Battle ends with 9-1 loss

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Mexico left fielder Riley Thurman was playing deeper than normal in anticipation of Battle pulling the ball. Thurman was in position to react. However, all she could do was turn her head and try to locate the ball as it sailed deep toward the wall.

Senior Allie Ferrell had slammed the ball to left for a two-run, first-inning home run to give the host Spartans a 2-1 lead Wednesday evening.

Battle wouldn’t trail again in the game.

“That ain’t her first,” Battle coach Joe Henderson said about Ferrell’s homer. “She hits like that all the time. Where (Mexico’s outfielders) were standing did not matter, because if she gets it, it’s all she wrote.”

Thurman, the Bulldogs’ sophomore outfielder, knew she would be active on defense.

Earlier in the first, Brooke Nutter hit a shot to left for Battle that was a few inches short of a homer as she raced for a standup double. She wound up scoring on Ferrell’s blast.

“We noticed early in the game that (Battle) was pulling essentially everything,” Mexico coach Keith Louder said. “They weren’t hitting anything to right field or past the right-center gap, so we shifted the outfield a little bit.

“… It didn’t matter. They were hitting it right over our head.”

Nutter and Ferrell combined for seven hits and six RBIs in a 9-1 rout over the Bulldogs. Nutter started in the circle and held Mexico to five hits and posted six strikeouts in a complete-game victory.

This was a statement win for Battle after falling to the 2018 Class 3 state champion 12-2 earlier this month and losing to Jefferson City 2-1 the night before.

Mexico has been a problem for Battle the past four years. Nutter lasted four innings and gave up nine hits and eight runs in the first matchup this season.

This time, Nutter decided to keep it simple: pitch as hard as she possibly could and hit her spots. Easier said than done, but the sophomore had the upper hand due to great location on her change-up.

“It was working really well for me today,” Nutter said. “It really helped me because I needed a change in speed.”

That, in combination with forcing hitters to reach across the plate, helped Nutter exact revenge.

“They definitely threw a lot of change-ups and it threw us off a lot,” Mexico’s Reghan Smith said. “We usually hit faster pitchers better. They keep it outside, which we struggle with a lot. The change-up and the outside pitching was not good for us.”

On the other side, Smith was unable to reel in Battle’s bats.

She gave up 13 hits, including six doubles and one homer. Smith, who mostly plays second base for Mexico, got the start over Bulldogs ace Hayley Mills. Mills got the day off as Louder looks to manage her pitch count.

“They were pretty much hitting every pitch I threw,” Smith said after the game. “I couldn’t find a pitch to throw to them. (Battle) hit solid all the way around.”

The Bulldogs won the last six meetings between the two teams and outscored Battle 44-12 over that span. Battle’s 9-1 victory Wednesday marked the Spartans’ first victory against Mexico since Sept. 17, 2015.

“We needed to get over the hump,” Henderson said.

It isn’t something Henderson or his players take lightly. The program takes pride in facing the best competition throughout Missouri. The Spartans’ schedule is littered with teams that won state championships within the past three years: Mexico, Blue Springs South, Blair Oaks and Sullivan.

It’s that competition that gives Battle the “hardest schedule in the state” mantra and a belief to compete with anyone.

The win over Mexico helps take pressure off Battle (9-9) before heading down to Springfield this weekend to take on Liberty Kansas City, Willow Springs, Glendale and Sullivan in the Springfield Tournament.

Mexico (11-9) is scheduled to play at Moberly on Thursday.

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