Lovelady Finishes Second, Grapeland Third in District 21-2A
By Will Johnson
CROCKETT – While the Leon Lady Cougars had already claimed the District 21-2A softball championship, the Grapeland Sandiettes and Lovelady Lady Lions still had some unfinished business. The two teams needed one more game to determine who would enter the postseason as the number two seed and who would be the number three seed from the district.
Both the Sandiettes and Lady Lions had already clinched a playoff berth as they tied for second in league play with identical 9-3 records. As a result, the two teams met on Monday, April 22 to see who would finish where.
The Sandiettes burst out of the gates in the first inning to claim an early 1-0 lead. As the game progressed, however, the Lady Lions pressured the Grapeland defense into more than a half-dozen errors as Lovelady defeated Grapeland by a score of 5-2 to lay claim to the second seed out of the district.
The two teams had split the season series 1-1. The Lady Lions won the first contest by a score of 2-1 while the Sandiettes won the second meeting, 7-3. Lovelady’s Mimi Sandoval and Grapeland’s Cadie Belle Currie were the pitchers of record in the previous two match-ups and the two hurlers were back in the pitcher’s circle for the rubber game in the season series.
Currie opened the game with a strikeout of Jacy Stubblefield and then got Makayla White to line out to third. Linda Martinez was next in the batting order and doubled into left. The hit was to no avail, however, as Sandoval flew out to center to end the Lady Lions’ half of the first inning.
When the Sandiettes came to bat, they wasted very little time in getting on the scoreboard. On Sandoval’s second pitch of the game, Kiera DeCluette ripped a shot down the third base line for a double, while an error in the outfield allowed her to move to third.
Cierra Simon followed DeCluette in the batting order and laid down a sacrifice bunt. Sandoval fielded the ball and threw to first for the sure out, but on the play, DeCluette scampered home to give the Sandiettes an early 1-0 lead.
That was all the offense Grapeland could muster in the inning as Currie fouled out while Cheney Boyd was robbed of a base hit by Lovelady’s Bailee Albinus who made a diving catch of her soft liner.
Lovelady struck back in the top of the second. An error allowed Amber Mikes to reach first base and she moved to second when Erin Sample singled to right field. Grapeland’s second error of the inning allowed Mikes to move to third.
With no outs and runners at the corners, Currie struck out Albinus. During Albinus’ at-bat, however, Sample stole second to move into scoring position.
Sarah Thompson was up next and made it to first on a passed ball while Mikes crossed the plate to tie the game at one. On the play, the Sandiettes committed their third and fourth errors which allowed Sample to come around to score and give the Lady Lions a 2-1 lead.
Rylee Biedrzycki grounded out but advanced Thompson to third. That was as far as she would get, however, as Stubblefield struck out to end the top of the second.
Sandoval held the Sandiettes in check when she resumed her position in the circle. She caught Keke Harris swinging at strike three and then forced Madi McCombs to fly out to left. Following a walk to Haylee Reed, the Lovelady ace struck out Jaycee Graham on three consecutive pitches to end the second inning and send the game into the third.
In the third, both Currie and Sandoval showed why they are favorites to win the Queen of the Circle postseason award. The Grapeland left-hander got Mikes to ground out, rang up Sample and then forced Albinus to hit into a 1-3 force to retire the side.
Lovelady’s right-hander matched Currie pitch-for-pitch as she struck out both Diamond Dunn and DeCluette for two quick outs and then jammed Simon, forcing her to pop up for the third out.
Currie continued her mastery over the Lady Lions as the game moved into the fourth inning as retired the side in order.
Leading off the bottom of the fourth, Sandoval made a mistake as she threw her counterpart a breaking ball that didn’t break. Currie was able to get around on the pitch and launched the ball over the right-center field fence for a solo HR which tied the game at two.
In addition, the Sandiettes had a chance to reclaim the lead but came up short. Following Currie’s blast, Boyd drew a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice from Harris. On the play, the Lady Lions failed to cover the bag at third which allowed Boyd to advance on a head’s up play.
Unfortunately for the Sandiettes, Boyd would get no further as McCombs was caught looking at strike three while Reed fouled out to end the inning.
Once again, Lovelady battled back to retake the lead as the fifth inning got underway. Thompson led off with a single. Katie Thompson came in as a courtesy runner but was doubled up at first when Biedrzycki lined out to third.
Stubblefield followed in the order and laced a single into center. White was up next and she reached on another Sandiette error giving Stubblefield the opportunity to race around the bases and cross the dish to give the Lady Lions a 3-2 lead.
The Sandiettes looked out-of-sorts on the play and very nearly allowed another run to score. Currie, however, managed to compose herself to coax Martinez to hit into a 5-3 force to end the Lovelady at-bat.
Sandoval took over after that. She struck out both Jessi Cunningham and Dunn before allowing DeCluette to reach first on an error. DeCluette stole second but was stranded there when Simon struck out to end the Grapeland threat.
Following a quiet sixth inning, the Lady Lions added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh. Albinus led off with a little flare into shallow right field which glanced off the glove of Boyd. On the play, Albinus took second and moved to third on a sacrifice from S. Thompson.
Following the sacrifice, the Sandiettes had a mental lapse which allowed Albinus to trot home and make the score 4-2. Currie got Biedrzycki to chase strike three for the second out but then plunked Stubblefield.
White followed in the line-up and doubled into left to drive in Stubblefield, making the score 5-2. After Martinez walked, Currie rang up Sandoval for her eighth K of the game to end the Lovelady half of the seventh.
The Sandiettes were down to their final at-bat and for a moment, it looked like they might make it interesting. McCombs popped up for the first out, but Reed drew a walk to give Grapeland a glimmer of hope.
Cunningham struck out but Dunn followed with a single to move Reed into scoring position. DeCluette was up next and represented the tying run.
Sandoval, however, was simply too much as she sat down DeCluette on three straight pitches to end the game as Lovelady held on to win by a final score of 5-2.
The Lady Lions’ win means they will enter the postseason as the second seed from District 21-2A. They will play the Cushing Lady Bearkats – the third seed from District 22-2A.
The Sandiettes enter the playoffs as the third seed from District 21-2A and will face the Joaquin Lady Rams – the second seed from District 22-2A. The site, dates and times for these games were not available as of press time.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.