Playing twice on the road and once at home last week, the Houston High School softball team outscored the opposition 40-3 and recorded no-hitters on back-to-back days in the process.
The Lady Tigers’ 3-0 run began with a 7-3 victory over Cabool in a South Central Association game on Tuesday, continued with a 15-0 blanking of Mountain Grove in an SCA contest on Thursday and concluded with an 18-0 destruction of county rival Licking in a nonconference matchup Friday at Carter Field.
Houston junior Aliyah Walker pitched a no-hitter in the 4-inning, run-rule shortened game at Mountain Grove and sophomore Kelsey Pritchett tossed a no-no the following day against Licking.
“We played pretty well,” said head coach Jim Moore. “The girls are coming around, and they’re hungry. They’re starting to see that we can play a little bit.”
Mackenzie Holder is enjoying her senior season with the HHS squad.
Thanks to a season-ending injury sustained by junior catcher Katie Jo Chipps early in the campaign, Holder has been behind the plate on a daily basis for the Lady Tigers and has been scorching opposing pitchers regularly.
She did it again last week at Cabool, going 2-for-3 at the plate and driving in 3 runs. One of Holder’s hits in the contest was a 2-run inside-the-park home run in the top of the seventh inning, her third round-tripper of the season.
Houston got on the board first with an unearned run in the top of the third inning and went ahead 2-0 on an RBI single by Holder in the fourth.
Cabool cut the deficit to 2-1 in the bottom of the fourth on an RBI double by senior Morganne Aaron, but Houston added a run in the fifth and another in the sixth to lead 4-1.
The host Lady Bulldogs pulled to within a run again with 2 unearned runs in the sixth, but Holder’s homer and another run in the seventh frame lifted Houston to the win.
The Lady Tigers had 8 hits in the game, with seven different players getting at least 1.
Junior Aliyah Walker pitched a complete game for Houston, allowing 5 hits and only 1 earned run while striking out 6 and walking 1.
Junior Athena Waller went the distance in the pitcher’s circle for Cabool, giving up 3 earned runs while fanning 1 and walking 3.
The host Lady Panthers had only one base runner in the contest (on a hit batter in the third inning), as Walker struck out 1 and didn’t issue a walk. Meanwhile, Houston’s defense was spot-on, as the squad didn’t commit and error and recorded 4 outs on fly balls and 7 on grounders.
HHS juniors Maddy Riley and Madi Reed remained hot with the bat, as Riley went 2-for-3 with 2 RBIs and 3 runs scored, while Reed went 2-for-3 with a triple and a run scored.
Senior shortstop Hannah Dzurick also went 2-for-3 at the plate, smacking 2 doubles and walking once while driving in 2 runs and scoring 1. Walker helped herself by walking 3 times and scoring 3 times in the contest.
Three Mountain Grove pitchers combined to allow 8 hits, while striking out 2 and walking 8. The Lady Panthers damaged their chances in the field by committing 5 errors.
Houston scored in all four innings, getting 1 run in the top of the first, 6 in the second and 4 in the third, and then adding 4 more in the fourth to reach the game-ending 15-run lead.
Licking had only 4 base runners in Friday’s 4-inning game (2 on hit batters, one on a walk and one on an error), as Pritchett struck out 9 and walked only 1.
Meanwhile, the Lady Tigers’ offense amassed 12 hits, including home runs by Dzurick, Walker and senior third baseman Mali Brookshire.
The visiting Lady Wildcats were playing as the home team, as the game was originally scheduled to be played at Licking but was moved to Houston because of Carter Field’s ability to drain better.
The Lady Tigers took a 1-0 lead without the benefit of a hit in the top of the first inning, and then racked up 8 more runs on only 3 hits in the second frame. Houston then added another run in the third inning and another 8 in the fourth.
Dzurick went 3-for-4 in the contest, with a homer, 2 doubles, 3 RBIs and 2 runs scored, and raised her batting average to a robust, team-high .547 in the process.
The Lady Tigers committed only 1 error over last week’s 3-game stretch.
“We’re not beating ourselves right now,” Moore said.
The squad has banged 14 home runs so far this season. Dzurick and Holder have crushed 3 apiece, while Walker and sophomore first baseman Mckenzie Bryan each have 2 and four players have 1 dinger apiece.
“Our lineup is relentless,” Moore said. “Top to bottom, we have girls who are hitting the ball and making the other team have to work.”
The Lady Tigers (15-4, 6-1 SCA) begin the postseason Monday (May 9) in the Missouri State High School Activities Association Class 2 District 4 Tournament at Mansfield.
Houston is seeded second in the 8-team event and face No. 7 Thayer in the first round. In other first round matchups, top-seeded Ava takes on No. 8 Licking, No. 3 Mansfield faces No. 6 Liberty and No. 4 Mountain Grove plays against No. 5 Cabool.
“Hopefully we continue to be hot and playing at our peak,” Moore said. “Winning districts is our ultimate goal; we came into the season setting the expectation of at least being in the position to make it possible.
“We feel like we’re there.”
The semifinals are set for Tuesday (May 9) and the district championship contest is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday (May 11).
The tournament was originally schedule to begin Friday (May 6) but was postponed due to weather-related concerns.
Of the Lady Tigers’ losses this year, two came on their home field at the hands of Mansfield and Ava.
“There are good teams in this tournament,” Moore said, “but we’re not intimidated by any of them. But they’re not intimidated by us, either, so it’s going to be ‘let’s get it on and see who’s best.’
“If we play our best, I like our chances. But as long as we play our best, we can live with whatever the results are. We feel good about where we’re at, and we’re poised to make a run.”