For most of the eight innings of Wednesday's Class 1 sectional softball game between Chaffee and Miller, the host Red Devils were able to handle the pressure of their first sectional appearance.
But a costly error in the top of the eighth helped playoff-tested Miller (14-13) squeak by Chaffee 3-2 to advance to Saturday's quarterfinal round. Miller finished third in Class 1 last year.
"The girls didn't really know what to expect," Chaffee coach Debbie Lewis said. "That's what we talked about [Tuesday]. Miller's been here before."
Chaffee's Sarah Benton struck out Miller's leadoff hitter to start the eighth inning.
But an infield single by Sam Hendrickson was followed by the first of two mental mistakes by the Chaffee infield.
Hannah Blevins hit a grounder to third, but Courtney Walter's throw to second sailed and hit second baseman Kegan Orr in the face, allowing both runners to reach safely. Benton struck out the next hitter to make it first and second with two outs.
Chelsea Harlow then hit a low, shallow popup between Benton and Orr. Orr fielded the ball, but her desperation underhand toss to first flew over the first baseman's head, allowing the go-ahead run to score.
Chaffee (11-7) fell behind 1-0 in the top of the first, but battled back to tie the game in the bottom half of the inning and grabbed the lead in the fifth.
Madeline Kiefer started a two-out rally for the Red Devils in the fifth with a single. Whitney Horrell and Olivia Coomer followed with back-to-back singles to grab a 2-1 lead.
"I was very proud of them," Lewis said of her players. "That is how I wanted them to play. They gave me all they had."
Miller used an error on a liner to the shortstop and two straight singles to tie the score 2-2 in the top of the sixth. Benton was able to retire the next three batters to get out of the jam.
Benton, just a sophomore, struck out seven, allowed 10 hits and walked none over eight innings.
"She pitched a fantastic game," Lewis said. "I'm really proud of her. She's so young. She has a lot of time left on the mound."
Miller pitcher Hailee Hendricks, also a sophomore, limited Chaffee to just five hits in the game. Hendricks raised her season strikeout total to 234 with eight in the game. Last season, Hendricks made the all-state team as a shortstop.
Lacy Blevins, Jennifer Hicks, Hendricks and Hendrickson had two hits apiece for Miller.
For the Red Devils, Orr had an RBI, and Coomer scored Chaffee's first run.
"We're losing four starters and it's always hard to lose a big chunk of girls like that," Lewis said. "But the girls coming up and the girls we have here they know what expectations I have."
POPLAR BLUFF - The Kelly Lady Hawks softball team dropped their first round playoff game in Class 2 to Strafford by a score of 4-2 in play at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff.
Coach Rhonda Ratledge of Kelly was disappointed with the loss but was pleased overall with the play of her team.
"Two good teams played in Poplar Bluff," said Ratledge. "Girls played some good defense and we put the ball in play. Just a tough loss but we are young and will be back."
The Lady Hawks, although primarily a young team, will lose three seniors in Mindy Robert, Jamie Jackson and Meghan Tetley.
Kelly (19-11) jumped on top of Strafford early in the contest as Robert drove in two runs with a single in the third.
Strafford did not let the Lady Hawks score another run while they plated a single run in the fifth, took the lead in the sixth with two runs and rounded out their scoring with a single run in the top of the seventh making the final score 4-2.
Besides Robert's single, Kelly received single hits from Summer Proctor, Brittany Brantley, Kalie Hughes and Katee Moore. Proctor recorded the only extra for the Lady Hawks as she doubled.
Hughes pitched a nice game as she went the distance giving up seven hits, walked eight on the game and struckout 12. Three of the four runs for Strafford were earned.
Strafford (26-1) will move on and face Marion C. Early in quarterfinal action on Saturday.
Staff reports contributed to this story.