SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Kennedy Jensen felt a pop in her left arm.
The Francis Howell Central senior pitcher was warming up prior to the fifth inning of the Class 5 softball state championship Friday against Lee's Summit West.
"I knew something was really wrong," the talented southpaw said.
With Jensen at less than 100 percent, Lee Summit West rallied for a 6-5 win in the tension-filled contest at Killian Softball Complex.
The Spartans were well on their way to capturing the first team state championship in the history of the Cottleville school.
Central seemed destined to complete its Cinderella run when it bolted out to a 5-0 lead after just two innings. It held a 5-1 advantage as Jensen warmed up prior to the bottom of the fifth.
Even though she was in obvious disarray, Jensen battled through the fifth inning without allowing a run.
"She had a little something going on," Central coach Zack Sheets said. "But she wasn't coming out.
Lee's Summit West, located in the eastern suburbs of Kansas City, tied the game on a two-run home run by Katerina Wilds in the bottom of the sixth.
Senior Riley McGovern ended it with a one-out, first-pitch, bases-loaded walkoff single in the seventh.
"Against a good pitcher like that, you always figure her first pitch is going to be her best," McGovern said. "It just happened to be the perfect one."
The hit completed an impressive about-face.
Central had all the momentum after scoring four times in the first inning against West senior hurler Taylor Pannell, who is bound for Mizzou.
Senior Lexi Floyd highlighted the explosion with a two-run double that pushed the Spartans' lead to 3-0. Alyssa Haile began the scoring by bringing in Emily Chadwick with a perfect safety bunt. Chadwick doubled on the third pitch of the game.
Sophomore Sarah Hoshaw pumped the lead to 4-0 with the second safety bunt of the inning.
The Spartans were on cruise control through the first five innings as Jensen allowed just one run on four hits.
Then the roof caved in as soon as Jensen's elbow popped.
"Something was wrong and then it got in my head about my injury where I was thinking more about the injury and less about the pitch," Jensen said.
The Spartans came into the contest riding the momentum of a 15-11 win over Blue Springs South in a morning semifinal game. Rain and a postponement Thursday forced the tournament to be played under a one-day format.
The championship-game setback was a painful one, although it didn't wipe out the most successful season in the history of the program.
"Our whole team battled all year long," Sheets said. "We just came up a touch short."
Haile was 5-for-8 with four RBI over the two games. The multi-talented shortstop said the highly successful campaign should not be defined by one late-inning loss.
"Winning (the state title) would have been great," said Haile, who is bound for Missouri S&T University in Rolla. "It was a great run and a lot of fun. Second place is pretty awesome. When you think about high school, it's about the group of girls that live around you and that togetherness. And we had that this season."
The last nine Howell Central hitters went down in order as Pannell found her groove.
The Spartans managed just one hit — a single by Phoebe Miller in the fourth — over the final five innings.
"I feel like we played pretty well," Sheets said. "Their pitcher was good. She was tough to score on. For us to get five right off the bat against her — it was quite a feat. I don't think we let them off the hook. They just made one more play than we did."