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Saving best for last

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Sports 0424

By Brian Besch
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Lady Lion softball waited until the final inning to score, providing a dramatic 2-1 win over Shepherd Friday night in Livingston.

In the bottom of the seventh, Shelby Dickerson tripled when the ball bounced past Lady Pirate outfielders. With one out, Bailey Bass grounded into a fielder’s choice, but an errant throw allowed Dickerson to score and Bass to reach safely and tie the contest at 1-1.

“She’s a freshman and I pulled her up halfway through the season on varsity,” Livingston coach Heather Mosser said of Dickerson, who entered the game in the fifth inning. “She came through in a big way. It’s awesome for her and it is a great look to the future. I was playing her both ways this year because there are some teams we have played that don’t have a J.V. team. The last time we played Shepherd, I think she fielded every ball that was hit to her and she never wavered. She comes in clutch at the plate at times, so the future is bright for her.”

A wild pitch then permitted Bass to third base. Janae Bland hit a pop up to left field, where no one could make a play. Bass scored easily and the Lady Lions celebrated the win.

“I’ve seen these kids play all year. I’ve learned not to give up on them, and I never do,” Mosser said. “It was a little rough at times, but I figured it would fall at some point. It did. We kept playing and we kept our heads up and just kept working.”

Both teams threatened in a few different innings, but only Shepherd could reach home plate until late, doing so once in the third inning. Brooklynn McCumber tripled and Kaylee Barlow brought her in with an RBI-single to make it a 1-0 game.

Allison Lytle started the game in the circle for the Lady Lions and went 4.1 innings, giving up just one run. She struck out four and gave up just three hits. However, she ran into trouble in the top of the fifth. With two runners in scoring position, Jaycee Knighton came on in relief and did not allow a run, keeping the game at 1-0. She was impressive over 2.2 innings, allowing just one Shepherd baserunner on a walk while striking out five.

“Both of my pitchers can throw, it is just up to my defense whether we are going to make a play,” the coach said. “That has been a struggle for us, which is why as soon as we got into a little bit of trouble, I felt like it was time to mae a change. At the same time, our offense has to play too. I really have faith in that, but we are really going to have to buckle down and make sure every aspect of our game is tight moving forward.”

Shepherd hurler Barlow threw 6.1 impressive innings, taking an undeserved loss. She struck out six and walked just one, scattering seven hits. Only one of the two Livingston runs was earned.

The Lady Lions will now prepare for a play-in game versus Hardin-Jefferson at a neutral site to decide the final postseason slot in District 21-4A.

“We split with Hardin-Jefferson on the season and we have the same record right now, so we are tied with them for fourth. Monday, we will play at Splendora at 5:30 p.m. for that fourth seed. We beat them 4-0 in the beginning of the year and then in our second game, they beat us 13-12 in the seventh. I think that we are the better team. Of course, I am always going to say that, but we have to play. We are definitely going to have to play better than we did tonight, for sure.”

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Roller coaster ride into playoffs

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Kalli Saucier tries to get the tag on a Tarkington runner taking third. PHOTO BY BRIAN BESCHKalli Saucier tries to get the tag on a Tarkington runner taking third. PHOTO BY BRIAN BESCH

By Brian Besch

Onalaska softball won a back and-forth thriller Thursday 10-9 over Tarkington in extra innings to clinch a playoff berth for the second consecutive year.

The three-hour marathon went nine innings before deciding a victor. Both teams had multiple opportunities to take the contest, but a wild couple of extra innings played under two sets of rules provided a conclusion.

Tied at 2-2 in the fifth inning, Tarkington seemed to take a commanding lead with three runs. The final two came on an outfield error, but the relay was in time at home to get a potential third, keeping the game at 5-2. The outfield mishap was a problem early on, as the Lady Horns scored their first two runs the same way.

Onalaska answered in the bottom half of that inning, beginning with a Madison Wilson bunt and stolen base. Kaitlyn Wilson was walked intentionally and Kenadi Houser reached on error, causing a run to score. Mary Joy Carriaga was hit by a pitch, loading the bases with two outs. Kalli Saucier walked to drive in a run and Savanna Benningfield brought in two with a double to take a 6-5 advantage.

Tarkington scored two more in the top half of the sixth to take another slim lead.

Kaitlyn Wilson got the bottom half of the sixth started with an intentional free pass. Houser beat out an infield single and Carriaga drove in a run on a Texas Leaguer that found a patch of green grass, knotting the score at sevens.

A theme had developed in the game, as neither offense would be retired quietly. In the seventh, the Lady Horns again took a lead on a double down the line in left field, scoring a runner from first to go up 8-7.

To add a little drama, the Lady Cats waited until there were two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to get the offense moving. Madison Wilson was a catalyst all night for Onalaska. She singled and stole a base. When the throw to second trickled into center field, Wilson sprinted around the bags. A few more would reach and a Houser drive was snagged off balance in right field, sending the match into extra frames.

The eighth inning was played by starting a runner at second base, similar to new Major League Baseball rules. A double would be more than enough to score the ninth run for Tarkington.

“I didn’t know what happened and I was trying to find out,” Onalaska coach Ashley Sustaita said of the unexplained rule change. “They couldn’t give me an answer and apparently it is something they had done at Coldspring. My (athletic director) looked all through the handbook and it is not in there, so, no idea.”

Sacrifices from Carriaga and Saucier got Houser past a throw home to tie the game and force a ninth inning.

Playing once more under traditional rules and starting with the bases clear, Tarkington loaded them, but was held without a run.

Onalaska’s Mattie Sootoo, a pinch hitter from a few innings prior, started the bottom of the ninth by reaching on error and stealing second base soon after. That set up Madison Wilson, who made hard contact. The ball was misplayed and Sootoo slid into home to begin a celebration.

“This is what you try for; it’s not even about the win,” Sustaita said. “There were so many things that go on in the dugout that spectators don’t even see that lead to these kind of moments. We could have lost and still felt good. That is – as coaches – all you want. You want your kids to be in an unselfish environment and fearless. When you have that, magic happens. We had kids that stepped up to the plate like Sootoo, who is a senior move-in that never batted. She steps up and does what she needs to do. We had our key kids getting walked intentionally, so big moments show up for other kids.”

The Wilsons were also responsible for the first two Lady Cat runs, with Madison scoring on Kaitlyn’s sacrifice fly in the first. Kaitlyn smacked a solo home run in the second. She  would be intentionally walked for the remainder of the game.

Onalaska moves ahead of Tarkington for fourth place in the district. If they can upset New Waverly, they will have a chance at third. For now, however, they have earned a spot in the postseason.

“We beat some really good teams early on in the season, but playing like this the way that we are, we can beat anybody in the first round. We just have to have the right pieces clicking at the right time.”

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Learning experience in Corrigan

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Shortstop Kellyn Smoke awaits the throw from home to attempt the tag on a runner stealing second base.Shortstop Kellyn Smoke awaits the throw from home to attempt the tag on a runner stealing second base.

By Brian Besch

Friday’s softball contest in Corrigan was never close, as the Central Lady Bulldogs scored early and often for a 17-0 victory.

Central put up 10 runs in the first inning, four in the second and three more in the third to end the contest early. Central is currently the second-place team in the district.

“I have two returning players from last year and the rest of my team has never played softball,” Corrigan-Camden coach Rusti Hall said.

“The last few games we have actually played longer than three innings, and we have looked a lot better and have been improving. We have grown a lot since the beginning of the year. I have six freshmen and we have lots of potential to grow. We just have to put in a lot of work to get there.”

The top of the Corrigan-Camden order made solid contact, led by Kellyn Smoke. The shortstop doubled in the first inning, the sole runner the home team put in scoring position.

“The top of my lineup has been producing pretty much all year,” Hall said. “We just have to get the bottom of the line up there. Our little one that got a double tonight, she is one that has never played before. She came to practice every day last year. She is just an athlete.”

Fighting an uphill battle this season, Hall is preparing her team for the future. Next season, the school drops a classification to 2A.

“It definitely benefits softball and us probably more than the other sports. We will have competition against Lovelady and Douglas, who have always been tough, so we will see. We are playing against schools right now that quadruple our enrollment rate. It is really hard when you only have 40 kids to choose from versus 200. But I have a really good group of girls that are positive and they encourage each other. I tell them before every game that they control their attitude and effort. If you have those two things that are positive, it doesn’t matter what the scoreboard says.”

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Remaining unbeaten in district

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A throw sails over the head of a leaping Bryce Barnes at third base.A throw sails over the head of a leaping Bryce Barnes at third base.

By Brian Besch
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Big Sandy baseball beat the tar out of the feathered Friday, defeating the High Island Cardinals 15-2 in just five innings.

The Wildcats got the offense going early, as Brayden Young was hit by a pitch. After advancing a base, Milton Hoffman got him in with a sacrifice. Kainey Alec doubled and Adrian Thompson drove him in on a base hit. After Trace Flores reached, Bryce Barnes brought the third run in on a double for a 3-0 lead after an inning.

The ‘Cats added two more in the second, when Tony Carter singled and stole a base, Young was hit by another pitch and Hoffman drove both in with a single.

The Cardinals got a run back in the top half of the third inning and Young relieved Hunter Brown after two-plus innings on the mound.

Up 5-1, the group from Dallardsville answered with five more. Barnes was beaned, Jason Valderez walked and Carter was also hit by a pitch to load the bases. Ethan Murphy also took a pitch to the body, driving in a run. A wild pitch brought in a run and Young got the eighth run in on a sacrifice fly. Hoffman drove in a run with a base hit, Alec and Adrian Thompson took a base on balls to load the bags again, and Flores walked to drive one in.

Three different hurlers took the mound to get some work for the Wildcats. Players shifted positions and showed little drop off, something Big Sandy coach Blake Brown said has expanded in 2022.

“We can improve in every aspect all the time, but our defense has been a lot better. We have the pieces to be able to move around and it really makes us flexible,” Brown said. “With any pitcher on the mound, I feel like we don't have any holes. That is big for us. We moved Tony Carter from shortstop to catcher this year and that has really shored us up behind the plate and has allowed us to move Trace to second base. It just kind of fits and everyone is feeling a little bit better than they did last year. Our guys are just playing hard and playing fast.”

Needing a run to possibly close the game early, the Wildcats scored five in the fourth inning. Valderez tripled and took home when Carter was caught in a rundown. Murphy bunted for a hit and Young picked up an RBI on a single. Hoffman produced the second triple of the inning, allowing two to score. He would score soon after on an error at third.

Big Sandy is now 10-6 on the season, but 6-0 in district and tied atop 25-2A. Scheduling schools a classification or even two above 2A, the team played well, according to Brown. District play has been lopsided, with a 93-7 cumulative score over the six contests.

“Sabine Pass is coming up this week and they are always competitive. Evadale is the next and then West Hardin, so I think the next three weeks are going to get us ready for the playoffs,” Brown said. “Our thing is our (non-district). We played up as much as we could to see the best amount of pitching that we could see before the playoffs. Our guys competed really well in those tournaments. We went 2-1 in the last tournament at Little Cypress-Mauriceville with wins over West Orange-Stark and Hemphill. We got to see some really good pitching that weekend too. I think that is going to propel us to hit better pitching in the playoffs this year. As long as we play clean defense, which we have been, I think we have a pretty good shot to make a run.”

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Hardin pulls away late

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Brady Smith started the game on the mound for Onalaska.Brady Smith started the game on the mound for Onalaska.By Brian Besch
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Onalaska baseball was able to keep Friday’s contest close for a while, but a disastrous final inning gave Hardin a comfortable 14-2 win.

The Hornets started the game off with four runs in the first inning. Pitcher Brady Smith would then settle in and was more effective overt he next four-plus innings.

Hardin grabbed two more runs in the third, but Onalaska answered. Lucas Jackson walked and stole a base, and Aiden Roberts and Zachary Taylor were both hit by a pitch. With the bases loaded, Jackson scored on a wild pitch to make the game 6-1.

“We did well early on in the season. We had a couple of really positive tournaments that we went to and our kids have been hitting the ball really well,” Onalaska coach Cody Pinkert said. “We had one stretch where we had two games that we pounded out 21 hits in two games. We were really excited about that, but for whatever reason we are really struggling right now. We didn’t get a lot of hits against Anderson(-Shiro) on Wednesday and obviously we struggled again today. I’m not sure what the answer is, but we are going to get back to work next week and see what happens.”

The two teams each picked up a run in the fourth. Grant Thornton was beaned and then stole second. He would score on a fielder’s choice, just before a runner was caught between first and second in a rundown. 

Up 7-2, the Hornets pushed seven insurance runs across in the seventh.

“The score is not indicative of what this team is capable of,” Pinkert said. “Anderson-Shiro was the district champions last year and they beat us 3-2 on Wednesday night and we competed the entire game. I think we just let this get away from us a little bit. Our district this year – I feel like there has been a lot of separation in the past. I feel like everybody has kind of clumped together this year. I think it is going to be a lot of everybody beating each other up and hopefully we can take advantage of that and figure out a way to get in the playoffs.”

The coach said hitting has been something the team could rely on, referencing the Cleveland tournament, where they collected 21 hits over two games.

“Hitting early on was a strength. Pitching has been a strength and our defense is probably one of the best groups that I’ve had. We struggled in that last inning (tonight) and made some errors, but I stand by it 100%. This is one of the best defenses that I have had at Onalaska in the past seven or eight years since I’ve been here. Sometimes we don’t have as much footspeed as I would like in the outfield, but that is OK. Our guys can play and I’m happy to have them out there. They get out there and work hard and that is all that I can ask for.”

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