POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. — Nineteen was the number of the day for Three Rivers.
The Raiders, wearing helmet stickers in honor of Steve Shupe, swept Jefferson on Monday at McLane Park, winning the opener 2-1 and the nightcap 6-1, and are currently the top seed with the Region XVI Tournament starting Saturday. Three Rivers is scheduled to finish its regular season Friday at North Central.
Three Rivers will be the 2 seed in the upcoming Region 16 Tournament and will host a sub regional next week.
Shortly before starting Monday's doubleheader, the Raiders returned to the national rankings at the No. 19 spot.
Three Rivers (35-4, 18-4) was ranked as high as 15 earlier in the season.
"We're going to have to beat these tough teams again. Today we scrapped it out against two tough pitchers," Three Rivers coach Jeff Null said.
Lauren Joyner hit her 19th home run of the season in the nightcap, putting her two shy of the Three Rivers single-season record, set in 2018 by Allison Pingel.
And No. 19 Molly Spangler had big plays in both games to help secure the sweep and a series win, with the Raiders taking 3 of 4.
"She had a heck of a day," Null said.
Jefferson (27-15, 12-10) took the lead in the opener when Lauren Duff got a solo home run in the fourth inning.
It was one of two hits against Kindi Puckett, who also had a hit batter and two walks with nine strikeouts.
"Kindi made one mistake on a 1-2 changeup; other than that she didn't give them anything," Null said.
Blair Quarles got a leadoff walk in the bottom of the sixth, and Jenny Morey moved her over with a sacrifice bunt. Spangler singled to tie the game and then scored the go-ahead run on Brianna Everett's single.
Jefferson had two on with nobody out in the bottom of the seventh.
Puckett (18-2) got a strikeout, and then Spangler, at shortstop, made a diving catch and throw to second for a game-ending double play.
The nightcap looked similar to the opener, with Three Rivers leading 2-1 in the fifth inning. Spangler then gave pitcher Makale Floyd some breathing room with a three-run home run. Joyner soon followed with a solo shot to put the Raiders ahead 6-1.
On the day, Spangler was 3 for 6 with four runs and four RBIs. Floyd (7-1) allowed seven hits and no walks with five strikeouts.
"She's throwing strikes, she's not walking anybody, and the defense is working behind her. It has kind of solidified that (No. 2 pitcher) spot," Null said. "Makayla (Bryant), Makenna (Moore), and Cayton (Sloan), their innings have gone down, but they've been good teammates. It's easy to be sour, but they're happy for their teammate, and they're all good friends."
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic