The Hannibal softball team threatened in the late stages Saturday but fell 2-1 to St. Dominic in the Class 3 District 7 championship at Veterans Sports Complex.
Andrew Pollard doesn't believe in moral victories.
But the first-year head coach of the Hannibal softball team readily acknowledged that his players performed nearly as well on Saturday as they had all season.
Hannibal threatened in the late stages but was unable to erase a deficit during a 2-1 defeat to top-seeded St. Dominic in the Class 3 District 7 championship at Veterans Sports Complex.
"This was one of the best games we've played," Pollard said. "It's tough to not be down right now, but the girls left it out there and have absolutely no reason to hang their heads. I'm proud of this team."
Hannibal, which lost in the district title game for the third straight year, stranded a runner in scoring position in four different innings and mustered just three hits against St. Dominic ace Carly Bloomfield.
The Lady Pirates moved a runner to third base with no outs in the seventh inning but got caught in a rundown that prevented the potential tying run.
Taylor Wilson led off the final frame with an infield single for Hannibal's first hit since the first inning. She moved to second on an overthrow. Sadie Stine pinch ran and took third on a wild pitch.
When Kylie McAfee shipped a two-hopper to Lady Crusaders third baseman Neely Edwards, Stine found herself in a pickle between third and home and was tagged out after a five-throw sequence.
"That just happens in this game," Pollard said. "We didn't do anything wrong. St. Dominic executed a great rundown. To say that was what decided the outcome wouldn't be accurate. But that was heart-breaking."
St. Dominic coach Noah Duncan praised Edwards for her heads-up defense.
"Neely looked and saw what she had and she went after it," the coach said of his third baseman. "The whole team executed that rundown perfectly."
McAfee advantageously advanced to second base amidst the chaos, but Hannibal flew out to center and struck out swinging to end the contest.
The tight finish hardly resembled Hannibal's 9-2 loss to the Lady Crusaders in the first game of the regular season Aug. 25.
The Lady Pirates conclude the year with a 9-11 record.
"Our record doesn't show how hard these girls work and how good this team was," Pollard said. "There were just some games that didn't go our way, and today was one of those."
Lauran Haye delivered an RBI single to score Taylor Simms in the first inning to stake the Lady Pirates to a 1-0 lead.
"For Lauran to put us ahead really gave her a positive feeling knowing she contributed to the possibility of a win," Pollard said.
Bloomfield locked in and only allowed three Hannibal base runners over the next five innings, coming via two walks and an error.
She struck out five over her 103-pitch complete game to lead St. Dominic to its third consecutive district championship.
"Carly has always been a big-game pitcher," Duncan said. "She's been there and done that. She has great composure and showed that today."
Edwards put St. Dominic ahead when she sent a two-run single up the middle in the third. Sydney Hart threw a dart from center field to catcher Hailey Whittaker, but the tag to prevent the Lady Crusaders' second run was applied a split-second late.
Both St. Dominic tallies were unearned due to a prior error.
Wilson, Hannibal's starting pitcher, steered clear of trouble from that point forward. Hannibal recorded the third out of the fourth inning on a fielder's choice at third base. Wilson induced three straight groundouts in the fifth.
Hannibal kept its deficit at one run by executing a pair of putouts at home plate in the sixth.
"Taylor Wilson pitched a wonderful game and our defense behind her stepped up to keep us in the ballgame," Pollard said. "St. Dominic is a good team and had several opportunities to bust the game open, but we gave ourselves a chance."
Simms hit into tough luck for Hannibal in the fifth. After Hart walked, Simms crushed a line drive toward third base. Edwards caught the ball and threw to first for a double play that undermined the hit-and-run.
Hannibal was retired in order in the sixth, and its fortunes didn't improve after that.