Lovelady Wins Pitcher’s Duel, 1-0

Lady Lions Advance to Title Game

By Will Johnson

Messenger Reporter

AUSTIN – If the two Class 2A State Semifinal Games are any indication, it appears the Championship Game on Wednesday evening, June 1 will be decided by pitching and defense.

In the first Class 2A Semifinal held on Tuesday, May 31, the Crawford Lady Pirates defeated the Weimar Lady Wildcats by a score of 1-0, thanks to a two-out RBI single from Haley Holmes.

In the second Class 2A Semifinal held on Tuesday, the Lovelady Lady Lions defeated the defending State Champion Stamford Lady Bulldogs, also by a score of 1-0.

The Lady Lions’ lone run came from the three best, combined 25-foot hits in Lovelady school history.

Mihyia Davis led off the bottom of the sixth with a slow roller back to the circle. Stamford’s Citaly Gutierrez fielded the ball but the speedy Davis beat the throw to first.

With Scout Lovell in the batter’s box, Davis stole second without a throw. Lovell moved Davis to third with a perfect bunt between the third base bag and the pitcher’s circle. Now, with Morgan Womack at the dish, Lovell trotted down to second, hoping to draw a throw.

The ploy didn’t work, but Lovelady now had runners at second and third with nobody out. Womack struck out swinging to bring Haven Prager to the plate. On the first pitch she saw, Prager got the biggest hit of her high school career up to that point. And it only went five feet.

Stamford’s Brylee Strand charged the ball from her first base position and had she fielded it cleanly and made a Derek Jeter-esque flip to Jay’lynn Hatley behind the plate, the Lady Bulldogs might have had a chance to catch Davis. Let me stress – might have.

It should be noted, just a few weeks earlier Davis had been in Austin where she finished third in Class 2A 100m dash with a time of 12.24. To say she’s fast is perhaps a bit of an understatement. She lit the after-burners when Prager’s bat made contact with the ball and when Strand bobbled the ball just a little, Davis slid across the dish to give the Lady Lions the only run they would need as they held on to win by a final of 1-0.

Putting that sequence of events aside for the time being, the game was a pitcher’s duel throughout as both Gutierrez and Macie LaRue were at the top of their respective games.

Gutierrez led off for Stamford and LaRue fanned the opposing pitcher on four pitches. Laylonna Applin was up next but grounded into a 5-3 force at first while LaRue struck out Emily Patterson to retire the side.  

The Lady Lions didn’t fare much better in their half of the inning, but did show they could hit off of Gutierrez, who was named as the Most Outstanding Player of the 2021 Class 2A Tournament.

Davis just missed a pitch and popped up to short, however, Lovell followed with a single through the right side of the infield. She stole second but was stranded there when Womack and Prager fanned to end the inning.

LaRue had another 1-2-3 inning in the second as she got Macy Detamore to ground out to short, forced Savana Gonzalez to tap back to the mound and then coaxed Jay’lynn Hatley to foul out down the first base line.

Linda Martinez led off the bottom half of the frame for Lovelady and hit a 2-2 pitch to the gap in center for a double. Rylee Biedrzycki sacrificed Martinez to third but that was as far as she would get as LaRue went down swinging while Bailee Albinus grounded out on a bunt attempt.

The Lady Bulldogs finally managed to get a player on base during the top of the third. Jacelyn Bell led off the inning with a double to left center, but when Shandlee Mueller tried to move her to third with a sacrifice bunt, she popped up to Martinez at third.

Brylee Strand, however, was successful with a sacrifice attempt as Mueller made it to third while Strand was thrown out at first. Faced with the first real adversity of the night, LaRue stared down Gutierrez as she settled into the batter’s box. After the UT-signee, took a first-pitch ball, LaRue smoked three pitches right down Main and on each pitch, Gutierrez swung and missed, ending the Stamford threat.

Lovelady also threatened in the third. Shyanne Pipkin led off but fanned after an eight-pitch at-bat. Davis followed with an infield single. She stole second and then swiped third, but couldn’t quite get home as both Lovell and Womack flew out to bring the third inning to a close.

A quiet fourth gave way to the fifth and Stamford threatened once again. Hatley led off with a single and was lifted for courtesy runner Jameson Bell. Jacelyn Bell moved her to second with a bunt but when Mueller tried to advance the runners with a bunt, Jameson Bell was picked off at second. Strand popped up to Womack behind the plate but a passed ball moved Jac. Bell to third as Mueller advanced to second.

That set up the second LaRue-Gutierrez showdown in the last three innings. Gutierrez managed to work a full-count out of LaRue this go round, but on the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Gutierrez took a mighty swing and came up empty, ending the hopes for the Lady Bulldogs.

While she struggled at the plate, Gutierrez continued to mow down the Lady Lions from the circle. She returned the favor to LaRue as she fanned her on three straight pitches and then did the same to Albinus. Pipkin managed to get a piece of one but when she did, she popped out to third to bring the fifth inning to a close.

As the shadows began to grow long at McCombs Field, it seemed as if the momentum had shifted ever so slightly away from the champs and to the side of the challengers.

LaRue seemed to grow stronger the longer the game went as she opened the sixth with a swinging strike out of Applin. She then got Patterson to pop up to second and forced Detamore to fly out to Davis in center.

The catch by Davis brought the Lady Lions in from the field and set the stage for the game’s only run. Davis opened the bottom half of the inning with a slow roller back to the circle and beat the throw to first. She then stole second and moved to third on a Lovell bunt. Lovell stole second but Womack fanned for Lovelady’s first out. Prager followed in the order and dropped a perfect bunt allowing Davis to race home and make the score 1-0.

Prager took second on the play while Lovell moved over to third. That brought Martinez to the plate and she also dropped a bunt right in front of the plate. Lovell was running on contact, but this time Hatley was able to pounce on the ball. She whipped around and tagged Lovell for the second out. It was a call that could have gone either way and could have come back to bite the Lady Lions. Fortunately, it didn’t.  Biedrzycki was up next but struck out to end the inning.

Still, it was enough for LaRue who only needed only three outs to get her team into the Championship Game. Gonzales led off for the Lady Bulldogs and worked a full-count out of LaRue. On the sixth pitch of the at-bat, however, LaRue blew one by her for out number one. Hatley was up next and popped up a 2-2 pitch to Prager at first for the second out.

Jacelyn Bell was up next and singled down the left field line to keep the Lady Bulldogs’ hopes alive. It wasn’t meant to be, however, as Mueller grounded to Martinez at third who fired to Prager at first for the game’s final out, sending the Lady Lions to the title game.

LaRue picked up the win in seven innings. She didn’t give up a run or a walk, yielded five hits and struck out six. Gutierrez took the loss in six innings of work. She gave up one run on five hits, didn’t walk anyone and struck out 11.

At the plate, the Lady Lions were paced by Davis who was 2-3 with a run scored while Lovell was also 2-3. In addition, Martinez was 1-3 at the dish.

The Lady Bulldogs were led at the plate by Jacelyn Bell who was 3-3. Laylonna Applin and Jay’lynn Hatley were both 1-3.    

To be the champ, you have to beat the champ and the Lovelady girls did just that, defeating the 2021 Class 2A State Champion Stamford Lady Bulldogs, 1-0. Stamford defeated the Crawford Lady Pirates last year, 5-4, to win the title. COVID-19 wiped out 2020, but in 2019 Crawford hoisted the Class 2A trophy. Will the Lady Lions be the next team to bring home a championship to Houston County?

Check back online after the Wednesday evening game at www.messenger-news.com or check out or Facebook page for the results.

Let’s go Lovelady. One more game. 21 more outs. One Championship.

Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].


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