HANNIBAL, Mo. -- After the Hannibal softball team watched Fulton score in the top of the first inning Thursday night, the Pirates knew they needed a quick answer.
They turned to the spark plug they've relied on all year.
Leadoff hitter Olivia Pfeifer led off the bottom half of the frame with a triple and scored on Taylor Simms' sacrifice fly to tie the score and propel Hannibal to a 3-1 victory in the Class 3 District 8 semifinals at Veterans Sports Park. The Pirates (13-8) will play in Saturday's title game against Mexico (17-7), which defeated Warrenton 2-0 in the other semifinal.
"I was just trying to get on any way I could. I knew that if I did, we'd have a good chance of tying it up," Pfeifer said. "The triple was even better to put me in scoring position."
The tide-turning hit came after a top half of the first that saw Hannibal pitcher Desarae Garcia in damage control. After the Hornets (10-8) got on the scoreboard and loaded the bases with one out on the strength of one hit, two errors, a walk and a hit batter. Garcia escaped further damage, however, when she got a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning.
The pitcher was happy to see her offense get that run back so quickly in the bottom half of the frame.
"It feels really good, and I know that my team has my back," Garcia said. "It showed that we were ready to keep on going and fight for it."
That was a theme the rest of the night as Garcia allowed at least one baserunner in every inning but one while keeping Fulton off the board.
"That's what we expect from her, whether that's fair or not," Hannibal coach Kendra Murphy said with a laugh. "She gets herself out of jams. She's been a battler and a fighter all year long."
The Pirates took the lead in the third in another offensive burst spurred by Pfeifer. The senior shortstop led off the inning with a bunt single down the third base line, then after a stolen base and a wild pitch later scored on Josie Zeiger's groundout to second base.
"She's the tone-setter for this team," Murphy said. "When she gets on like that, it fires everybody up knowing she's going to find a way to score."
Hannibal added to its lead in the third when Simms walked and scored on a groundball single into left field by Lauran Haye.
The Pirates will prepare for North Central Missouri Conference foe Mexico. They've lost to the Bulldogs in both contests this year, but by just one run each time -- a 2-1 road loss on Aug. 31 and a 5-4 loss at home on Sept. 27.
Class 3 DIstrict 8 Semifinals
Hannibal 3, Fulton 1
Fulton 100 000 0--1 6 0
Hannibal 102 000 x--3 6 2
Kettle and Gilbert; Garcia and Whittaker. WP--Garcia. LP--Kettle. 2B--Fulton 1 (Kettle). 3B--Hannibal 1 (Pfeifer).