COLUMBIA, Mo. -- If Mother Nature has a heart, she'll give McKenzie West and the Monroe City softball team a day off.
The Panthers earned it.
West pitched 16 innings Wednesday, guiding the Panthers to the brink of an upset of Columbia Hickman, a school with an enrollment six times larger than Monroe City. However, the Kewpies scored two runs in the bottom of the 16th to escape with a 2-1 victory.
"I hope they realize what a fantastic game that was," Monroe City coach Melissa Chinn said.
The game was originally slated to be played at Monroe City's Lions Park, but overnight thunderstorms forced a venue change. Hickman has an artificial turf field at its baseball/softball complex.
"There is a little bit of an intimidation factor walking in there," Chinn said. "The girls had the feeling it was the big leagues."
The Panthers didn't play like they were in awe of the surroundings.
West allowed only one runner past second base in the first 15 innings, retired the Kewpies in order seven times and benefitted from a defense that committed just one error.
She gave up nine hits, while striking out eight and walking three.
"She had the best defense behind her," Chinn said. "I could not have asked for a better defensive performance."
The Panthers turned one double and forced the Kewpies to leave 10 runners on base.
"It was the best defense we've played," Chinn said.
Hickman was equally stingy.
Monroe City had only one baserunner reach third in the first 15 innings and went down in order six times. It wasn't until the 16th inning when the Panthers were able to scratch a run across.
With two outs, Bailee Hays singled and scored on Riley Quinn's double. Hays had two of the Panthers' six hits, and Quinn had the only extra-base hit.
"We thought that was it," Chinn said.
The Kewpies had one more at-bat to change that.
Zoe Deboven led off with a single, took second on a sacrifice bunt and scored on Emily King's single. After a groundout, Sydney Hallrah delivered a walk-off double.
"They wanted it," Chinn said. "They really wanted it. I hope we can play like that all year. That was a fantastic game."