In the squad’s busiest portion of the season, the Houston High School softball team went 3-2 in stretch featuring 5 games in 5 days last week.

The Lady Tigers began the flurry with a 4-2 loss to Mansfield Tuesday in Houston and continued with a 14-4 win over Liberty in the South Central Association conference opener Thursday at Mountain View. Then at the annual Conway Tournament on Saturday, Houston opened the 4-team round robin event with a 5-2 win over Hartville, but then fell to College Heights Christian (of Joplin) 5-1 before beating host Conway 11-4.

Both teams scored twice in the first inning of the tournament contest against Hartville. The Lady Tigers then put the game away with 3 runs in the bottom of the fourth.

The decisive frame included only 1 hit – an RBI double by junior Aliyah Walker – but was fueled by a hit batter and two crucial errors by Lady Eagles fielders.

Houston’s offense produced 8 hits in the contest, with junior lead-off batter Karlee Curtis going 2-for-3 with a stolen base and 2 runs scored.

Sophomore Kelsey Pritchett started in the pitcher’s circle for the Lady Tigers and went 5 1/3 innings, allowing only 2 hits and no earned runs to earn the win.

Against College Heights Christian, the Lady Tigers managed only 2 hits off of Lady Cougars sophomore hurler Madelyn Colin, who didn’t allow an earned run while striking out 12 and walking only 2.

Walker did the pitching for Houston and held her own, working all 6 innings in the game and allowing 7 hits while fanning 8 and walking 4.

Houston sophomore Kelsey Pritchett takes a cut during the Lady Tigers’ game against Mansfield last week at Carter Field.

Host Conway took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning of the wrap-up contest, but the Lady Tigers answered with 5 runs in the bottom of the frame and never looked back.

Houston had only 6 hits in the win, including a 2-run homer by Curtis during the second inning rally (the first dinger of her career). But the Lady Tigers took full advantage of 7 walks, and were also aided by 5 errors committed by Lady Bears fielders.

Houston senior Mackenzie Holder and junior Mackenzie Bryan each had RBI doubles in the contest.

 “It was kind of an up-and-down day for us,” said HHS head coach Jim Moore. “We played good defense all day long, but our bats didn’t really come alive until the last game.”

The Lady Tigers took second in the tournament, behind College Heights Christian (the 9th-ranked team in the latest Class 2 state poll).

“Playing them was good for us,” Moore said, “because when we talk about where we want to be at the end of the year, we’re going to have to beat teams like that. It was good for us to see that we can definitely compete with them.”

LOTS OF RUNNERS, NOT MANY RUNS

Against Mansfield, the Lady Tigers had 8 hits and plenty of scoring opportunities, but left 12 runners on base.

Senior shortstop Hannah Dzurick went 2-for-3 with the bat and drove in a run to tie the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the first inning.

Pritchett smashed a lead-off triple in the bottom of the seventh inning and scored on a single by sophomore right fielder Rhease Manier.

HHS sophomore Rhease Manier takes a cut during the Lady Tigers’ game against Mansfield.

Walker tossed a complete game for Houston, allowing 9 hits and 3 earned runs while striking out 7 and walking 3.

Senior Madison Ivy pitched a complete game for the visiting Lady Lions, scattering 8 hits while striking out 7 and allowing 2 walks. Ivy also had a big day at the plate. She smacked an RBI double off the left field fence in the top of the first inning, and blasted the ball high over the fence in center field for a solo home run in the fifth frame that put Mansfield ahead 3-1.

The final spread might have been even greater, but after the Lady Lions loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the seventh inning, Walker pitched her way out of the jam with two strikeouts and an infield pop fly.

Houston loaded the bases twice, only to come away with a single run.

“I thought we really let one get away,” said HHS head coach Jim Moore. “We had so many opportunities to break that game open, but we didn’t get it done.”

CONFERENCE VICTORY

After each team scored a run in the first inning of the contest against Liberty, Houston put up 3 in the third frame and added 5 more in the fourth to take a commanding 9-1 lead.

The host Lady Eagles got a run in the bottom of the fourth, but the Lady Tigers scored 5 more runs in the top of the fifth inning and coasted home to the victory.

Junior right fielder Maddy Riley had a breakout game at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a triple, a double, an RBI and 2 runs scored.

HHS senior shortstop Hannah Dzurick prepares to catch a pop fly for an out during the third inning of the Lady Tigers’ loss to Mansfield Tuesday at Carter Field in Houston.

Riley’s double was one of three extra base hits smacked by the Lady Tigers during the decisive fourth-inning rally, as Dzurick and senior third baseman Mali Brookshire each had a double.

Pritchett did the pitching for Houston and worked all 5 innings, giving up only 1 hit and no earned runs while fanning 9 and issuing 3 walks.

Houston (8-3 through last Saturday) hosts big SCA matchups Thursday against Ava and Monday against Willow Springs. The Lady Tigers continue a four-game home stand next week by hosting Eminence on Tuesday and facing Salem in a big SCA contest on Thursday.

“We’re looking forward to competing and seeing where we’re at,” Moore said.

For the first time ever, all eight SCA squads are playing spring ball. While nothing will be decided, the winner of Thursday’s game with Ava will be in the driver’s seat in terms of pursuit of the conference crown.

“We’ve had that one circled on the calendar for a while,” Moore said. “That’s a big one.”

HHS junior Aliyah Walker prepares to deliver a pitch during the Lady Tigers’ loss to Mansfield at Carter Field in Houston.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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