Lovelady 8 Latexo 7
By Will Johnson
LOVELADY – Even though basketball season is still going on for some, the girls have returned to the softball diamond. East Texas has a rich history of talented teams and this year looks to be no exception.
The Lovelady Lady Lions just missed a trip to the State Tournament last year and after only graduating two seniors off a team that came oh so close, the Lady Lions will be a force to be reckoned with.
The Latexo Lady Tigers, meanwhile, are quietly putting together a solid program and with a mix of veteran players – along with some fresh, new faces – the Lady Tigers may turn a few heads this season.
Latexo did just that on Tuesday evening when they took on the Lady Lions and gave Lovelady all it wanted as the Lady Tigers came within three outs of an upset. As it was, it took a walk-off double from Lovelady’s MaKenna Pierce in the bottom of the seventh to give the Lady Lions an 8-7 win.
Mimi Sandoval was in the circle for Lovelady but ran into a little trouble in the first inning. Charlee Biano led off the game with a single to left and then stole second. After Shelby Eberts fanned, Natalie Nicol doubled to left to drive in Biano.
A groundout from Baylee Omelina moved Nicol to third and she trotted home when Katy Allen singled to right. Lauren Woodard was up next and grounded out to third, however, the Lady Tigers had taken an early 2-0 lead.
Woodard was in the circle for Latexo and worked a 1-2-3 first inning. She got Scout Lovell to fly out right, struck out Morgan Womack and then coaxed Linda Martinez into a groundout to end the inning.
The Lady Tigers threatened again in the second. Taylor Dise opened the frame with a fly ball out to center but Izzy Yourgenson followed with a walk. She moved to second on a grounder from Marissa Allison but was picked off at second.
Biano followed with her second hit in as many innings as she laced a double past third. Unfortunately for Latexo, Allison was gunned down at the plate when she tried to score.
Woodard was back in the circle in the bottom of the inning and once again, she worked another 1-2-3 inning. This time, she got Sandoval to ground out to short, struck out Haven Prager and got Rylee Biedryzcki to fly out to center.
In the third, Sandoval got Eberts to line out to third but followed with a walk to Nicol. Omelina was up next and singled to center. Nicol, however, was thrown out trying to move to third. Womack came in to relief Sandoval at that point and got Allen to pop up to left, ending the top of the inning.
Leading off the bottom of the third, Pierce flew out to center while Bailee Albinus was called out on a bunt. The Lady Lions finally got a hit, but it was all for naught when the next batter ripped a shot into right but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
With three innings in the books, the Lady Tigers still led 2-0 and seemed to have Lovelady’s number. That all changed in the bottom of the fourth when the Lady Lions came roaring back.
After retiring the Latexo lineup in the top of the fourth, Lovelady plated five when they came in from the field. Lovell led off with a double and moved to third when Womack bunted her aboard. On the throw, Womack moved to second.
As Martinez settled into the batter’s box, Lovell broke for home while Womack made a run for third. Lovell slid home safely and when a throw sailed into the outfield, Womack trotted home to tie the game at two.
Following a Martinez groundout, back-to-back singles from Sandoval and Prager put runners at first and second. Allen came on in relief of Woodard at this point and promptly K’d Biedryzcki for the second out the inning.
Pierce was up next and was hit by a pitch to load the bases. A liner to left from Albinus drove in Lovell and Womack while Pierce moved to third. A steal of second and a walk reloaded the bases and brought Lovell back to the plate.
Lovell delivered a shot by third but Albinus was thrown out on the play to bring the frame to an end and keeping the score at 4-2.
Rather than folding their tents and packing it in, the Lady Tigers rallied in the top of the fifth to re-tie the score.
Biano led off with a single and then stole second. She came around to score on a double from Eberts and when Nicol followed with a double of her own, the score was tied once again.
It seemed like the Lady Tigers might re-take the lead with a runner in scoring position and nobody out, but a pop to short, followed by consecutive groundouts stranded Nicol at third and ended the Latexo threat. Still, the Lady Tigers had tied the game 4-4 after four-and-a-half innings were complete.
Once again, however, the Lady Lions came roaring back. Womack led off with a double and then stole third. She came across the dish to score on an error and just like that, Lovelady was up 5-4.
A walk to Martinez and a single from Sandoval put runners at first and second with nobody out. Allen, who was still in the circle, managed to get Prager to fan and Biedryzcki to pop to short, but a two out hit from Pierce drove in Martinez from second which made the score 6-4. That was all the Lady Lions would get in the inning, however, as Allen got Albinus to swing at strike three to end the inning.
In the top of the sixth, Latexo battled back and re-took the lead. A walk to Yourgenson, a walk to Allison, a walk to Biano and a walk to Eberts pushed Yourgenson across the plate to make it 6-5. A walk to Nicol pushed Allison across the dish and tied the game at six. The sixth walk in a row, this time to Omelina, brought in Biano and gave the Lady Tigers the 7-6 lead.
Allen was up next and tapped back to the mound. Womack fired home to get Eberts in a force at home. Woodard followed in the order and lined back to Womack for the second out. Womack then threw to first to catch Allen – who wandered too far off the bag at first – for a double play to end the Lady Tigers half of the inning.
Dise came on in relief the bottom of the sixth and she mowed down the Lady Lions in order. Dise then turned around and led off the seventh with a double. A liner back to the circle, a groundout and a walk moved her to third but that was a s far as she would get as Eberts grounded out to end the top of the seventh.
With one last chance, Lovelady came through in the clutch. Martinez led off the inning with a walk while Sandoval moved her to second with a single to left. Prager followed and also singled to left to load the bases.
Biedryzcki was up next and flew out to center but the ball was deep enough to allow Martinez time enough to tag up and score from third. Sandoval remained at second while Prager stayed at first.
Pierce was up next and watched the first two pitches go by. With a 1-1 count, Pierce saw the pitch she wanted and raked it into centerfield. Sandoval raced home from second with the winning run, with Prager was right behind her, as the Lady Lions came from behind to pick up the thrilling 8-7 win.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].