SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Katie Gaus kept her approach simple when she dug into the batter's box in the top of the sixth inning.
"I just wanted to turn things around," the left fielder for the Canton softball team said. "I wanted to get us going."
Gaus smacked a long fly ball to center field, and she wasn't sure where it was landing.
"I didn't know if it was out, but I knew it was a good hit," Gaus said. "I was too busy running to see it."
Her teammate Brianna Caldwell was on first base, and before rounding second base she saw the North Harrison center fielder turn and sprint for the fence.
Caldwell kept sprinting until Canton coach Jonathan Bastian told her to relax when she got to third base.
"He said it was a home run," Caldwell said. "I went nuts. I hit home plate and then I climbed up on the fence and started screaming at the fans."
Gaus heard that roar and her teammates were ready to mob her at home plate as her two-run homer gave Canton the go-ahead runs in a 4-2 victory over North Harrison in Friday's Class 1 state semifinal at the Killian Sports Complex.
Canton (20-5) will play Pilot Grove (21-7), a 4-1 winner over Chaffee in the other semifinal, in the program's first-ever championship game appearance at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Gaus' homer was her first of the season.
"Katie's been a super clutch performer all year long," Bastian said. "She's had big moments all year. It was fun to see her have an obvious big moment in a big situation like that.
"I couldn't be happier for her."
The mindset of the Tigers turned around completely after the home run.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, North Harrison (21-8) took a 2-1 lead on a two-out RBI single by pitcher Payton Craig. Canton was making its third trip to the state tournament in four years, but each time it fell in the semifinal.
Losing the lead with only six offensive outs remaining put pressure on the Tigers.
"I think someone of us were a little scared," Gaus said. "But I don't think we had any doubts. We thought we could get the job done."
An insurance run in the top of the seventh eased the tension.
Third baseman Abbey Hultz led off by stretching a ball hit into left field into a double. On the next at-bat, right fielder Tegan Burbridge put down a sacrifice bunt, but the throw went into right field, and Hultz scored to make it 4-2.
"The left fielder was playing a little deep, and Abbey is fast and rounded first hard," Bastian said. "It turned out well for us, obviously."
It gave Canton right-handed pitcher Olivia Jarvis a little more support to shut the door in the bottom of the seventh.
Jarvis got a grounder back to her by North Harrison's Mason Cracraft on the first pitch. She got another grounder to Laken Hugenberg at shortstop, but a throwing error moved Kami Gibson to second. Jarvis brushed off the error by as she struck out Sally Briggs, and Gibson was tagged out trying to steal third to end the game.
"That helped a lot having the two runs," Jarvis said. "I just kept telling my team we needed three more outs."
Jarvis attacked the Shamrocks all game as she allowed just four hits in her seven innings of work. She struck out eight and didn't allow a walk.
Canton struck first in the top of the first inning on a two-out RBI single by Laken Hugenberg that scored Caldwell. North Harrison answered in the third on Craig's RBI triple.
Hunter Collins and Hultz both had two hits for the Tigers. Caldwell scored twice.
Canton 4, North Harrison 2
Canton 100 002 1--4 7 2
North Harrison 001 010 0--2 4 1
O. Jarvis and Collins; P. Craig and E. Craig. WP--O. Jarvis. LP-- P. Craig. 2B--Canton 1 (Hultz). 3B--North Harrison 1 (P. Craig). HR--Canton 1 (Gaus).