By Will Johnson
LINDALE – The Slocum Lady Mustangs are one step closer to making a trip to the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Dee Dillon Softball Field and a chance to play for the Class 1A state championship after they defeated the Sulphur Bluff Lady Bears by a score of 5-0 in Game One of their best-of-three series.
Jalyn Fletcher was in the pitcher’s circle for the Lady Mustangs and dominated the Lady Bears throughout the contest. After giving up a lead-off walk to Kaylon Hume, Fletcher didn’t allow another base runner until the top of the fourth inning.
Following the walk, Fletcher stuck out Kiersten Brown, Hume was thrown out on a steal attempt and Makenna Morgan grounded into a 5-3 force at first.
Hume was in the circle for the Lady Bears and was equally as effective as Fletcher in the early innings. After she retired Fletcher on a ground out and Courtney January on a pop-up, Jessi Ives recorded the first hit in the game with a single to right.
Ives stole second, but that was as far as she would get as Hume struck out Makayla Bickerstaff to end the first inning.
In the second, Fletcher made quick work of the Lady Bears as she struck out the side on 12 pitches.
While the Lady Mustangs threatened to score in the bottom half of the inning, Hume held them in check. Taylor Clark popped up to lead off the inning for Slocum and was followed by Briley Evers who also popped up.
Next up was Kara Cumby who slapped a double into left field. On a 1-2 pitch, Cumby stole third but Hume got Shelby Bowman to swing at strike three to end the frame and move the game into the third.
The third inning featured two more K’s from Fletcher as she retired the side in order while Hume worked her way out of a two-out jam to keep the score at 0-0 after three complete.
The Lady Bears threatened to score the first run of the game in the top of the fourth after Hume led off with a double. Angel Brown popped up to left for the first out, but then Fletcher walked Morgan and hit Kaitlyn White with a pitch to load the bases with one out.
Fletcher maintained her composure, regrouped and proceeded to ring up the next two batters to work her way out of the bases loaded jam.
When the Lady Mustangs came to bat in the bottom of the inning, Hume wasn’t as fortunate. Bickerstaff led off with a single to left and moved to third on a bunt from Taylor Clark. Christy Dunnam came in as a courtesy runner for Clark and promptly stole second.
With runners at second and third and no outs, Evers grounded to short, but Bickerstaff was able to score on the play while Dunnam advanced to third.
She wasn’t there long as Kara Cumby laid down a bunt to score Dunnam and make the score 2-0, in favor of the Lady Mustangs.
After the two runs, Hume seemed to settle down as she struck out Bowman and Laney Lasiter to get out of the inning.
As the game moved into the fifth inning, Fletcher retired the first two batters she faced and then gave up a single to Hailey Halbert and a walk to Hume. However, she managed to coax Brown to ground back to the circle for the inning’s final out.
Slocum plated three runs in their half of the fifth to put the game away. Fletcher led off with a single to left and then stole second, as well as third. January walked and moved to second when Ives aid down a bunt which brought Fletcher across the dish.
After Bickerstaff hit into a fielder’s choice at third to take January off the base paths, Clark roped a triple to left to score both Ives and Bickerstaff and put the game on ice.
Fletcher retired the side in order in both the sixth and seventh innings as Slocum won the game by a score of 5-0 and took a 1-0 in the best-of-three series.
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.