PERFECT GIFT

The Houston softball team gave coach Brent Hall the perfect birthday gift: a conference victory.

The Lady Tigers beat Ava 4-2 last Thursday on Carter Field for the team’s first win against an opponent from the South Central Association.

“I’ll take it,” Hall said. “That’s as good as it gets.”

The Lady Tigers, who defeated Laquey the following day for back-to-back victories, were in a rare close game. Only four of the team’s 14 games this season have been decided by less than six runs.

Houston improved to 3-1 in games decided by two or less runs. The Lady Tigers also pulled to one game under .500 at 7-8 overall.

“Either we’ve blown people out or we get blown out,” Hall said. “This was a close game that we competed and didn’t fold. That was encouraging.”

HHS took the lead for good with a three-run fifth inning to break a 1-all tie. Carly Crawford had a bases-loaded single and Taylor Chipps brought home a run with a groundout as part of the rally.

That was enough for sophomore Emily Roberts, who scattered 10 hits and did not walk a batter. She struck out two — both in bases loaded situations.

“She really mixed in her changeup and kept them off-balance,” Hall said. “Last year she was an issue we had to fix. This year, in the games that we’ve lost, it hasn’t been her. She’s been solid all year long.”

Crawford and Kaitlyn Root had two hits apiece to lead the HHS offense. Crawford, Chipps and Ellie Bradshaw each had RBIs. Stephani Crewse stole two bases.

All nine HHS players either had a hit, drove home a run or scored.

“That was a team effort,” Hall said.

Ava loaded the bases in the top of the third with no outs but only managed to score one run.

The Lady Tigers pulled even in the fourth as Crewse reached on an error, stole second and scored on Bradshaw’s two-out single.

Roberts, Root and Madison Curtis — the team’s Nos. 7, 8 and 9 batters — all reached base to begin the pivotal three-run fifth.

Hall tinkered with both his batting lineup and defense for the game.

The moves paid off.

“Some people were probably playing positions that they didn’t want to play,” Hall said. “But they sucked it up, and it was an advantage for us. I think it worked well.”

SOFTBALL UPCOMING GAMES

Thursday’s game

• Houston at Willow Springs, 4:30 p.m.

Monday’s game

• Bakersfield at Houston, 4:30 p.m. (Senior Night)

ONLINE: View images of the Lady Tigers’ victory at www.houstonherald.com/photos

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