By Will Johnson
LINDALE – Following their 5-0 win on Thursday, the Slocum Lady Mustangs stood on the brink of a trip to Belton to play for the Class 1A State Championship in softball.
While the weather conditions may have changed from Thursday to Friday, when the Lady Mustangs took the windswept field for Game 2 against the Sulphur Bluff Lady Bears, their approach to the game did not.
The Lady Mustangs have relied on solid pitching and quality at-bats all year and in Game 2 of their best-of-three series with the Lady Bears, their winning formula proved successful once again as Slocum defeated Sulphur Bluff by a score of 10-1 to advance to the state semifinals on June 2.
Sulphur Bluff’s Kaylon Hume was in the circle once again for the Lady Bears as the game got underway and she held the Lady Mustangs scoreless in the first inning. Her counterpart from Slocum was Jalyn Fletcher who had won Game One with a two- hitter.
Fletcher picked up where she left off on Thursday as she held the Lady Bears scoreless in the first inning of play.
Slocum took an early lead in the second and never looked back. Taylor Clark got things started in the top of the inning with a triple down the right field line and crossed the plate when Kara Cumby singled to give the Lady Mustangs a 1-0 lead.
The Slocum defense, as well as the pitching of Fletcher, kept Sulphur Bluff in check in the second inning and then miscues by the Lady Bears came into play.
With two outs in the third inning, Jessi Ives slapped a shot to short that was booted for an error. Ives reached first safely and then stole second to move into scoring position. Makayla Bickerstaff was up next and came through in the clutch with a two-out single to center which plated Ives and extended the Slocum lead to 2-0.
Through four innings of play, both Fletcher and Hume controlled the game from the circle. Fletcher had been electric in the circle while Hume had been steadily efficient as she had only yielded one earned and one unearned run.
That all changed in the fifth inning as the Lady Mustangs blew the game wide open with five runs. Fletcher started the scoring binge with an inside the park homer down the right field foul line.
Courtney January added the next run to the Slocum lead after she reached on an infield single. She took third on a throwing error and scored on an Ives groundout.
As the inning continued, Clark and Shelby Bowman both had doubled to drive in a run apiece, while Briley Evers chipped in the Lady Mustangs’ final run of the inning with an RBI single to make the score 7-0.
After Fletcher retired the side in the bottom half of the fifth, Bickerstaff plated two more runs in the top of the sixth with a base knock into the outfield to push the Slocum lead to 9-0.
The Lady Bears finally got to Fletcher in the bottom of the sixth, but only for a single run. Sulphur Bluff’s Makenna Morgan doubled and came around to score on a throwing error to make the score 9-1 but that was all the Lady Bears could muster as Fletcher shut them down the rest of the way.
Slocum tacked on their final run in the top of the seventh to bring the score to 10-1. After Fletcher slammed the door on Sulphur Bluff in the bottom of the seventh, the Lady Mustangs had punched their ticket to Belton and a chance to play for a shot at the state title.
The Class 1A semifinals will get underway on June 2 at Dee Dillon Field on the campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor. The UIL has not determined who the Lady Mustangs will face as of press time. The other three state qualifiers are: Hermleigh, Bartlett and Dodd City.
Will Johnson may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.
PHOTOS COURTESY OF STEPHANIE LIMERICK