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Back-to-Back State Champions!

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Slocum Lady Mustangs Defeat Ector Lady Eagles for State Title

By Will Johnson
Messenger Reporter

AUSTIN – For the second year in a row, the Slocum Lady Mustangs traveled to Austin for a shot at a state championship in softball and for the second year in a row the Lady Mustangs brought the Class 1A title back home to Slocum.

This year’s championship road was a little more treacherous than last year’s. In the 2017 semifinals, the Lady Mustangs defeated the Bartlett Lassies by a score of 10-5 and then run-ruled the Hermleigh Lady Cardinals by a score of 10-0 in the title game.

The scores were a lot closer this year as Slocum defeated the D’Hanis Cowgirls in the semifinals by a final of 3-0 and followed that up with another 3-0 victory in the title game against the Ector Lady Eagles.

Ector sent Destiny Whitburn to the pitcher’s circle to face the Lady Mustangs and she acquitted herself quite well. In the first inning, the Lady Mustangs threatened but couldn’t get a run across the plate.

Jalyn Fletcher led off with a single to left but Courtney January popped up to second. Fletcher stole second and moved to third on a Jessi Ives single.

After Ives stole second to give Slocum two runners in scoring position, Whitburn struck out Taylor Clark and Briley Evers to end the Lady Mustangs’ threat.

Fletcher was in the circle for Slocum and dominated the Lady Eagles throughout the game. She gave up a leadoff single to Whitburn but then became nearly unhittable. Fletcher struck out Sunnie Bingham on three pitches and then got Bailey Collins to hit into the first of four double plays for Slocum.

Collins lofted a pitch to right which was caught by Laney Lasiter who threw to Kara Cumby at first to double up Whitburn, who had strayed too far off the bag at first.

The double play was followed by a quick second inning. Whitburn struck out Cumby to start the top of the second. Shelby Bowman followed with a 6-3 groundout and then Whitburn struck out Bella McNeill to end the Slocum at-bat.

Fletcher also had an easy go of it in the bottom of the inning. Montana Johnson led off with a tap back to the circle that Fletcher fielded and then threw to first. Stormy Shockley followed with a groundout to short, but then Hannah Easley was walked.

Jordan Blakely came in as a courtesy runner for Easley but didn’t make it any further as Fletcher struck out Kaylee Nelson to end the inning.

The Lady Mustangs finally broke into the scoring column in their half of the third inning. Lasiter led off with a groundout to first but Fletcher followed with a triple down the right field line.

January was up next and singled to left to drive in Fletcher with the game’s first run. Whitburn, however, kept her composure as she got Ives to hit into a fielder’s choice and struck out Clark to end Slocum’s at-bat.

Fletcher continued to keep the Lady Eagles at bay as she got groundouts from Mary Salazar and Carly Jones to open the Ector half of the third. Whitburn drew a walk, but Fletcher caught Bingham swinging at strike three to end the inning and send the game into the fourth.

The fourth inning was more of the same as both pitchers continued to baffle opposing batters. After a nine pitch at-bat, Evers flew out to center. Cumby singled up the middle and took second on a groundout from Bowman. McNeill followed Bowman in the batting order but left Cumby stranded at second when she struck out.

When the Lady Eagles came to bat, Fletcher forced Collins to ground into a 1-3 force. Johnson was up next and she reached first on an error. Fletcher then received a pitcher’s favorite gift as Shockley grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Whitburn continued her dominance over the Lady Mustangs in the fifth inning. Lasiter led off with a fly ball out to center and was followed by Fletcher’s 1-3 groundout. January was up next and singled but was left at first when Ives flew out to center.

The Lady Eagles did not help themselves at all when they came in to bat in the bottom of the fifth. Fletcher was hardly even able to get loose in the inning as she threw five pitches and recorded three outs.

Easley bunted into a 2-3 force on a 0-0 count. Nelson tapped back to the circle on a 1-1 count while Salazar grounded out to short to end the fifth inning on the first pitch she saw from Fletcher.

With only six outs remaining between the Lady Mustangs and their second state title, Slocum tried to generate some offense in their next at-bat. Clark led off the inning with single to left but then Whitburn slammed the door on the Slocum sixth inning hopes.

She forced Evers to pop out to second, Cumby to pop back to the circle and then forced Bowman to pop out to third to end the Slocum scoring threat.

When she took the pitcher’s circle in the bottom of the sixth inning, Fletcher continued to assert her control over the Ector batting order. She forced Carly Jones to fly out to center but gave up her second walk to Whitburn.

The Slocum defense, however, came through yet again as they turned their third double play of the game. Bingham dribbled a 2-1 pitch back to Fletcher who turned and fired to Ives – covering the bag at second. Ives, in turn, threw to Cumby at first to catch Bingham on a 1-6-3 double play.

The Lady Mustangs added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh. After McNeill struck out to open the final inning of play, Lasiter singled to left and moved to third on Fletcher’s base knock into right field.

January was up next and was intentionally walked. The move backfired on Ector, however, as a passed ball allowed Lasiter to scamper home and also advanced the runners. Ives followed with a groundout to third – but on the play – Fletcher was able to cross the dish to make the score 3-0.

After Whitburn forced Clark to foul out, the Lady Eagles were down to their final three outs. Collins led off with a single, but fittingly enough, Fletcher forced Johnson to hit into a 4-6-3 double play to erase the base runner. Fletcher then got Shockley to fly out to right to end the game and give the Lady Mustangs their second consecutive UIL Class 1A State Championship in softball.

Fletcher was credited with the win as she went the distance and held the Lady Eagles scoreless on two hits. She also struck three, walked three and was named as the Most Valuable Player of the Class 1A tournament.

Whitburn was the hard-luck loser as she pitched seven innings and gave up three runs (only one earned) on nine hits. She also struck out seven and walked one.

At the plate, Fletcher also led the way for Slocum. She was 3-4, including a triple, and scored twice. January also had a good day in the batter’s box as she went 2-3 with an RBI and a walk.

Whitburn led the Lady Eagles at the plate as she was 1-1 with two walks. Collins collected the only other hit for Ector.

The Conference 1A All-Tournament Team was announced after the game and included the following  Slocum players: Jalyn Fletcher at pitcher; Briley Evers at catcher; Kara Cumby at first base; Courtney January at second base; Jessi Ives at shortstop; and Laney Lasiter in the outfield.

Other All-Tournament Team players were: Ector’s Montana Johnson at third base; Ector’s Sunny Bingham in the outfield; D’Hanis’ Natalie McFadin in the outfield; and Ector’s Destiny Whitburn as the utility player.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at wjohnson@messenger-news.com.