Sandiettes Win Series 2-1; Advance to Regional Semis
By Will Johnson
NACOGDOCHES – The Grapeland Sandiettes were in trouble. They had taken a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning of Game Three only to watch as the West Sabine Lady Tigers scored three runs and took a 5-4 lead into the sixth.
A quick sixth inning gave way to the game’s final frame as the Sandiettes still trailed by one. No one could have blamed the Sandiettes had they faltered. There was more than a little pressure on the top of the order – comprised of three freshmen, a junior and a sophomore.
The Sandiettes, however, had grown together as a team over the course of the season and were up for the challenge.
Cierra Simon led off the seventh with a walk issued by West Sabine’s Hannah Spring. Kiera DeCluette followed with a bunt and reached base safely on a throwing error that allowed Simon to move to third.
The next batter was Cheney Boyd who drew a four pitch walk to load the bases. After Hannah Chipman fanned on a 1-2 pitch, Cadie Belle Currie settled into the batter’s box and hit a slow roller down the third base line.
The ball was booted for an error which allowed both Simon and DeCluette to score while Boyd moved to third
With Grapeland now leading 6-5 – and with runners on the corners – Spring uncorked a wild pitch which allowed Boyd to scamper home to make the score 7-5.
Christy Shepherd had come into run for Currie at first base but was held at first on the play. Two pitches later, Shepherd was doubled up when Madi McCombs lined out to first to end the inning.
The momentum had now shifted to the Sandiettes. At the start of the seventh, Grapeland was three outs from elimination. Now, with three outs standing between the Sandiettes and a trip to the Regional Semi-Finals, Grapeland seized the moment.
Currie struck out the first batter she faced in the bottom of the seventh as Harlee Franklin watched strike three go by. Haley Primrose followed with a fly ball out to centerfield, leaving one out between Grapeland and the Regional Semifinals.
Anna Metcalf was up next for the Lady Tigers and she laced a single into right field. Following Metcalf’s base knock, Spring settled into the batter’s box. On the first pitch she saw from Currie, however, she slapped a grounder to third where DeCluette fielded the ball cleanly and then tossed to Chipman at first for the game’s final out as the Sandiettes won the game 7-5 to advance to the Regional Semi-Finals.
After the game concluded, Coach Joel Barbosa commented on his team’s performance during the series.
“We dropped Game One and came out yesterday and won Game Two fairly easy. We talked about that on the bus ride home,” he said.
“I told them West Sabine is a good team and they’re going to come at you with everything they’ve got. They’re young and we’re young, but we took care of business,” Barbosa said.
As he continued, the coach said the Sandiettes needed this type of game “… because this is the type of game that decides if you are a championship caliber team and I believe we answered that.”
“Cadie Belle Currie is a great pitcher,” he added. “If you give her a lead or give her an advantage, you’ve made a mistake and she will make you pay. Our girls know that and they knew once they got Cadie Belle some runs, it was over.”
When asked to recall his conversation with the team after the Game One loss, Barbosa said he reminded them of the loss to Alto last year which knocked the heavily favored Sandiettes out of the playoffs.
“I told them if this was a one-game series, we would be sitting at the house,” he said. “It was a reminder to the girls who were on the team last year that this can be over in a heartbeat. I told them that they should play every game like it was the last one they would ever play.”
Barbosa said his team responded “… and we won game two fairly easily (9-2). But, I told them on the way home to expect a dog fight in Game Three. West Sabine didn’t get here by luck. They’re good and they earned it. This far in the playoffs, everybody has earned where they are. We just had a little bit more in the gas tank than they did.”
The coach was also asked how he kept his team of six freshmen, four sophomores and three juniors from letting the pressure get to them.
“This is a unique bunch,” he said. “This is my third year here and I’ve established relationships since they were in junior high. They have learned to trust me and they have learned to trust each other. This is who we are. We’re going to fight and we will be in every game, no matter what the score is and they believe that,” Barbosa said.
After the Sandiettes had dropped Game One by a final score of 3-2, they were back in Nacogdoches for Game Two.
Just like in Game One, Grapeland scored two runs in the first to take an early 2-0 lead. The Lady Tigers battled back and cut the lead in half during the bottom of the second.
The score remained at 2-1 until the top of the fifth when the Sandiettes plated three runs. Both Tiera Jones and Simon drew walks to open the inning but Jones was called out at third when DeCluette hit into a fielder’s choice.
Boyd followed with a groundout but managed to advance Simon to third
and DeCluette to second. Chipman was up next and she roped a single to right which drove in Simon. Currie helped her own cause as she smacked a pitch to second that was booted for an error and allowed both DeCluette and Chipman to cross the plate and make the score 5-1.
The Lady Tigers shaved a run off the Grapeland lead when they came to bat in the bottom of the inning. After Kelsey Woods grounded out, Kaleigh Anderson reached first base after a dropped third strike.
Franklin was up next and grounded into a 3-4 force while Anderson advanced to third. She trotted home to make the score 5-2 when Primrose singled to right.
That was all she wrote for West Sabine in Game Two as the Sandiettes tacked on three more runs in the sixth and one more in the seventh as they coasted to a 9-2 win in Game Two of the series.
Game Three saw Grapeland jump out to a 2-0 lead after the top of the first but West Sabine roared back in the bottom of the inning to tie things up.
The Sandiettes plated a pair of runs in the top of the fifth to take a 4-2 lead only to watch it slip away as the Lady Tigers scored three in the bottom of the inning to set up the dramatic conclusion to the series finale.
Grapeland is next scheduled to play the Avery Lady Bulldogs in a one-game playoff for the Regional Semi-Final championship. The Sandiettes will play on Friday, May 18 at LeTourneau University in Longview. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.