SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- It only took one half inning for the Canton softball team to face its first deficit of the postseason.
It only took one more half inning to erase it completely.
Canton fell behind 1-0 in the top of the first inning of its Class 1 state semifinal against Stoutland on Friday at the Killian Softball Complex. After back-to-back one-out singles and a couple of throwing errors, Stoutland managed to get a runner home and put one on second base, but Canton minimized the damage and kept the deficit to one.
Abbey Hultz reached on an error to lead off the bottom of the first for Canton and Emily Gorrell laid down a perfect bunt to reach as well, and after a sacrifice bunt from Hunter Collins, Canton was in great position to answer.
And answer the Tigers did. Abbey Jarvis blasted a three-run home run to give Canton all the cushion it needed to beat Stoutland 4-1 and reach Saturday's Class 1 championship game.
"They answered right away when they got down and they got rid of their bad moment in the first inning and played really just strong the rest of the game," Canton coach Jonathan Bastian said. "It was over before we knew it."
Jarvis was part of the error that allowed the run to score for Stoutland in the first, so she was able to get immediate redemption.
"She hasn't even tapped into her potential yet," Bastian said. "That ball she hit is something she can do every time she's up. She is showing more and more what she can do, and she's incredible with the bat. I told her to hit a little base hit and she said, 'I'll one-up that.'"
After Jarvis' blast, it was the defense's turn to shut things down the rest of the way. Hultz, throwing in the biggest game of her career, shook off a rusty start to sit down Stoutland in order in the second, third, fourth and fifth innings. After a groundout and two singles to start the game, Hultz retired 20 of the final 21 batters she faced, including six strikeouts.
"She has done a good job of focusing, picking the positives and controlling what she can control," Bastian said. "She can't control when we throw it around a little bit and allowed a runner to score, but she just said, 'OK, I can control the next few batters,' and she did what she's been doing all year. Nothing comes easy when you're facing her. She did really, really well."
The defense stepped up its game as well, particularly shortstop Hanna Rieffer. She had three great plays on the infield in the second and third innings to keep Stoutland off the bases, and she added an insurance run in the fourth with a lead-off double and some heads-up baserunning to score on a wild pitch.
"I talked to our defense and we knew that team hadn't struck out much this year, and they could put some pressure on us, but after the first inning we were really strong and Hanna led the way with that," Bastian said.
Canton is back in the Class 1 title game and only has a Salisbury team that defeated Maysville 9-3 in the other semifinal standing between it and a second state title in three seasons.
"I am super proud," Bastian said. "It matters a lot to them, obviously, and they are not going to play any different and they will be super hungry, but they have nothing left to prove.
"They just need to go out and take what they've earned."