Grapeland Falls to Woden, 3-2
By Will Johnson
LUFKIN – The Grapeland Sandiettes softball season came to an end on Thursday night as they fell to the Woden Lady Eagles by a final score of 3-2.
While the Sandiettes didn’t end their playoff run the way they wanted, they battled to the end, gave themselves chances throughout the game and gave the Lady Eagles all they could handle. Unfortunately, Grapeland was unable to take advantage of those opportunities and watched as Woden celebrated a return trip to Austin after the final out.
Sandiette Kiera DeCluette beats out a bunt in the first inning of the Regional Finals against the Woden Lady Eagles.The game was tight throughout and could have gone either way. The Sandiettes were the visiting team and came to bat first but were unable to generate any offense against Woden pitcher Amber Allen.
Cierra Simon led off with a pop-up to short. She was followed by Kiera DeCluette who dropped down a well-placed bunt to reach first. That was as far as DeCluette would get, however as Cheney Boyd grounded into a fielder’s choice and Hannah Chipman hit a liner back to Allen for the third out.
When the Lady Eagles came to bat they managed to scratch out a run to take a 1-0 lead into the second.
Shelby Brookshire led off the bottom of the first with a single into centerfield and moved to second on a Skylar Smith sacrifice. Reese Taylor was up next for the Lady Eagles and grounded into a 5-3 force but on the play Brookshire was able to move to third.
Allen was next in the order and sent a rocket to third which was mishandled and allowed Brookshire to score. Meagan Johnson followed Allen in the batter’s box and grounded into a force at second, but the Lady Eagles had seized an early 1-0 lead after the first inning of play.
The second inning saw the Sandiettes put the lead-off batter on base, as Cadie Belle Currie drew a walk. Christy Shepherd came in for Currie as a courtesy runner but could go no further. Madi McCombs flew out to left and then KeKe Harris hit into a fielder’s choice which caught Shepherd at second.
Haylee Reed was up next and singled past short and moved Harris into scoring position. Grapeland was unable to capitalize on the situation, however, as Teira Jones struck out.
Just as Allen was containing the explosive Grapeland offense in the early innings, Currie – who was in the circle for Grapeland – was just as dominant.
In the bottom of the second, the sophomore southpaw needed only eight pitches to retire the side. First she got Abby Chapel to tap back to the mound for a 1-3 force. Then, she coaxed Callie Rhodes to line-out to third and followed that up with a pop fly to left from Madison Christopher to retire the side.
The Sandiettes had another opportunity to score in the third but couldn’t get the run home. At the start of the inning, Woden lifted Allen from the pitcher’s circle and replaced her with Taylor. The move very nearly backfired as Simon led off with a towering blast to center which appeared to be gone. The Morris Frank softball field, however, was big enough to hold the ball and it settled harmlessly into the center fielder’s glove for a long out.
DeCluette was next in the batter’s box and grounded into a 1-3 force. Boyd followed with a triple and it appeared the Sandiettes might break into the scoring column with two outs but Allen got Chipman to fly out on a 1-1 pitch to retire the side.
Currie ran into a little trouble in the bottom of the third but was able to work around it and keep the Lady Eagles off the scoreboard. She retired Briley Watkins on a foul out but then gave up a single to Brookshire.
Next, she forced Smith to hit into a fielder’s choice which caught Brookshire at second. Reese Taylor followed with a single to shallow left to give the Lady Eagles runners at first and second but then got Allen to groundout to short and end the inning.
The top of the fourth was just ugly for Grapeland. Currie grounded out on a 1-1 pitch and then McCombs, as well as Harris, struck out swinging to end the Sandiettes’ at-bat.
Woden added another run to their lead in the bottom of the fourth. Johnson led off with a fly ball out to center, but then three consecutive singles from Chapel, Rhodes and Christopher pushed Chapel across the dish to make the score 2-0.
After Chapel’s run, Currie re-grouped to get Watkins on a pop-up to center and then forced Smith to foul out.
Following a quiet fifth inning, the Sandiettes finally broke into the scoring column. Chipman led off the inning with a walk and following a Currie pop-up, she stole second.
McCombs also drew a walk and then Harris laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Chipman to third and McCombs to second. On a 1-2 count, a wild pitch allowed Chipman to sprint home and slide under the tag of Taylor – who was covering the plate – and made the score 2-1.
On the play, McCombs moved to third but she was stranded there when Reed grounded out to short.
The Lady Eagles got the run back in bottom of the inning after Currie had retired the first two batters she faced. Kimmy Holliman was caught looking at strike three and then Christopher hit a little looper to short for the second out.
Watkins was up next and reached on an infield error. Brookshire followed in the lineup and slapped a double into the left field corner to drive-in Watkins and make the score 3-1.
After Currie got Smith to ground out, the Sandiettes had one last chance in the top of the seventh. Diamond Dunn came in to bat for Jones but grounded into a 6-3 force. Simon followed with a three-pitch strike out, but then DeCluette drew a walk from Taylor.
A wild pitch moved her to second and then she stole third. On the steal, the throw from the catcher skipped past Allen at the bag and allowed DeCluette to trot home and make the score 3-2.
Boyd followed with a walk, but a Grapeland comeback was not meant to be as Chipman struck out to end the game.
Currie went six innings in a losing effort as she gave up three runs (zero earned) on nine hits. She also struck out two and didn’t walk anyone.
Taylor picked up the win in relief as she pitched five innings and allowed two runs (zero earned) on two hits. She also struck out six and walked five.
At the plate, the Sandiettes were led by Kiera DeCluette who was 2-3 with a run scored and a walk.
The Lady Eagles were led by Shelby Brookshire who was 3-4, with an RBI and a run scored.
Following the game, Head Coach Joel Barbosa spoke about his team’s performance in the game and throughout the season.
“It was a great season. We played 40 games and beat some really good teams with a very young team,” he said.
The Sandiettes finished the year with a mark of 29-9-2 and lost the nine games by a total of 18 runs. If you take away a five-run loss to New Caney and a three-run loss to Carthage, the margin of loss shrivels to 1.28 runs per game.
“I told the girls heading into the game it would be a dog fight. We talked about it all week and we knew we had to make the right calls at the right time, but hey – Woden is a good team – and we played them hard all the way to the end,” Barbosa said.
While it’s certainly not the way the Sandiettes wanted their season to end, we would like to extend our congratulations to the team on a spectacular season and best of luck next year.
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.