It wasn’t on the schedule prior to the season, but the Houston High School softball Lady Tigers played a double-header last Saturday on their home field.
That’s because the games were supposed to be part of the annual Mountain Grove Tournament, but only one of two fields were usable for the six-team event, so the two three-team pools were forced to play at different locations.
The Lady Tigers blanked Liberty 15-0 in the run-rule-shortened first game of the twin bill, but fell to county rival Plato in the second, 8-2.
The first game lasted only 3 innings, as Houston scored 2 runs in the first inning, 11 in the second and 2 in the third, while the Lady Eagles failed to produce a run. The Lady Tigers racked up 9 hits and took advantage of 11 walks during the brief offensive onslaught.
Junior Aliyah Walker went 3-for-3 at the plate, with 2 doubles, 4 RBIs and 2 runs scored. Walker also did the pitching for Houston, allowing only 2 hits while striking out 4 and not issuing a walk.
Junior Mackenzie Holder had another good game with the bat, going 2-for-4 and driving in 4 runs, while junior Mackenzie Bryan smacked a solo home run, walked twice, scored twice and drove in 2 runs.
At the same time that pool play games were being contested in Houston, the pool including host Mountain Grove, Ava and Salem played at Mountain Grove. There was no championship game in the tournament.
Against Plato, Houston trailed 8-0 before getting on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Lady Eagles’ high-powered offense was led by freshman Makayla Fletcher and sophomore Kaylee Copley, as Fletcher went 4-for-4 with 2 doubles, 3 RBIs and a run scored and Copley went 4-for-4 and scored 4 runs.
Senior Kailey Garrett was in the pitcher’s circle for Plato and allowed only 3 hits while fanning 11 and walking none.
Holder had Houston’s only extra-base hit: A double in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Three games into the season, HHS head coach Jim Moore has identified fielding as an area where his team might need to improve.
“We’ve got to figure out some things with our defense,” Moore said. “It’s been good probably 90-percent of the time, but it’s got to be a little bit better.”
Moore said pitchers who serve up a steady diet of high-speed fastballs (like Plato’s Garrett) have been a challenge to Lady Tigers’ batters.
“Our offense if pretty good, except for when it’s a fast pitcher,” he said. “We’re going to have to do a better job of making contact against upper-echelon pitchers, which is what you’re going to see if you want to go where we think we can go.”
Aggressive base running is always a trait of a Moore-coached squad, and this season is no exception.
“We’re running the bases decently,” Moore said. “We’ve made a couple of mistakes here and there, but we’re putting the pressure on the other team and taking an extra base when we can.”
The Lady Tigers (2-1) were scheduled to host Dora on Tuesday of this week, but the game was canceled because Dora claimed to have too many players committed to a track meet. Instead, Houston traveled to Cabool (who was idle that day) for a previously unscheduled nonconference “friendly.”
The Lady Tigers begin South Central Association conference play Thursday (March 31) at Mountain Grove before traveling Friday to Summersville.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” Moore said. “We know we’re talented and we know we have a lot of potential, but we’re just not there yet. And we don’t need to be there yet; there’s a lot of time left.
“But the girls seem to be having fun, and that’s key, too.”
The Lady Tigers return to Carter Field Tuesday (April 5) for a nonconference matchup with Mansfield.