By Will Johnson
LATEXO – The Latexo Lady Tigers and Neches Lady Tigers squared off in a pitcher’s duel that came down to the final half inning on Tuesday, April 4. Latexo’s Gracie Zalesky and Neches’ Josey Sumpter battled each other for six and a half innings before Latexo managed to break through for run in the bottom of the seventh to win by a score of 1-0 and keep their flickering playoff hopes alive.
Zalesky opened the game in the pitcher’s circle for Latexo and struck out the side on 12 pitches. Sumpter was just as effective for Neches as she only needed eight pitches to retire the opposing Lady Tigers in order to close out the first.
The second inning saw Zalesky continue her dominance as she needed only 10 pitches to strike out the middle of the Neches batting order. Meanwhile, Sumpter continued to baffle the Latexo batters as she recorded a 6-3 groundout and added two Ks to her total.
Through the first two innings of play, Zalesky had notched six strikeouts while Sumpter had four – to go along with two groundouts – as neither team of Lady Tigers had even came close to reaching base.
In the top of the third, Neches finally put a runner on the bag. Zalesky struck out the lead-off hitter but yielded a base knock on an 0-2 pitch to Bennett. Zalesky shook off the hit and retired the next batter she faced and then coaxed Hannah Lovelady to ground into a force at second to end the top of the third.
Latexo also managed to get a couple of players on the base paths during their half of the third. Kursten Catoe slapped a shot between first and second that was misplayed for an error. After Sumpter struck out the next batter she faced, Catoe moved to second on a fielder’s choice and took third when Alexa Knight laced a single up the middle for Latexo’s first hit of the game. It was all for naught, however, as Diana Maza grounded out to first to end the inning.
As the game moved into the fourth inning, Zalesky continued to stymie the Neches hitters. She recorded her ninth K of the game, forced a ground out and a pop up to keep Neches off the bags and end the top of the fourth.
While she wasn’t as dominant as Zalesky, Sumpter matched Zalesky pitch-for-pitch. Following a walk to Zalesky to open the bottom of the fourth, she got Raylen Walker to hit into a double play as Zalesky was doubled up at first base.
Bailey Ingle was up next and singled into center but was caught stealing by Neches catcher Cora Olivares to bring the inning to a close.
The fifth inning saw both Zalesky and Sumpter re-establish themselves in the pitcher’s circle. Zalesky retired the side in order on a pop-up, a force at first, and her 10th strikeout while Sumpter struck out the Latexo side to end the fifth and moved the game into the sixth inning.
Both pitchers worked a 1-2-3 sixth inning and set the table for the game’s dramatic conclusion.
Zalesky struck out the first two batters she faced in the top of the seventh and coaxed Jayci Mannix to ground into a 5-3 force to end the Neches at-bat.
When the home Lady Tigers came in from the field, they knew all they needed was a single run to win the game. Zalesky led off with a double to center field and moved to third when Hannah Lovelady misplayed a pop-up from Walker in shallow left field.
Walker took second on the Neches error and with runners at second and third with no outs, Ingle settled into the batter’s box. She looked at a called strike and then took a ball to even the count at 1-1. On Sumpter’s final pitch of the game, Ingle was able to turn on the pitch, lined the ball into center and brought Zalesky across the plate with the first and only run of the contest to give Latexo a 1-0 victory.
Zalesky was credited with the win after she went seven innings, struck out 14 and only gave up one hit. Sumpter was saddled with the loss after she pitched six innings, struck out nine, walked one, gave up four hits and one run.
At the plate, Jessica Bennett was the only Neches player to record a hit as she went 1-2. Bailey Ingle collected two hits for Latexo as she was 2-3 with the game winning RBI. Alexa Knight was 1-4 and Gracie Zalesky was 1-2 with a double and a walk.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.