Falling behind 3-0 in the top of the first inning didn’t deter the Houston High School softball team from remaining undefeated, as the Lady Tigers came back to beat Thayer 7-5 in a big South Central Association conference matchup Thursday at Carter Field in Houston.
“I think that shows our experience and resilience,” said HHS head coach Jim Moore.
The visiting Lady Bobcats wasted no time in taking an early advantage, scoring twice on consecutive doubles by their first three batters in the contest and then adding a run on a wild pitch before Houston recorded the third out in the first frame.
But the Lady Tigers responded emphatically and tied the score in the bottom of the first when senior Katie Jo Chipps launched a 3-run home run high over the left field fence. Chipps’ second round-tripper of the season drove home senior lead-off batter Aliyah Walker (who reached base on an error) and senior Karlee Curtis (who got aboard with a sharp single to center).
Thayer regained the lead with 2 straight doubles to open the top of the third inning and went ahead 5-3 with a run on a double play in the frame.
But the Lady Tigers rallied for 4 runs in the bottom of the sixth inning. The decisive sequence began when senior Madi Reed and freshman Katy Evans walked to open the frame, and senior Maddy Riley laid down a bunt that was mishandled, allowing her to reach first base and Reed to score and pull Houston to within a run. Walker followed with a bunt single to drive in Evans and tie the score at 5, and the Lady Tigers went on top for good when senior Mackenzie Bryan drilled a line drive that resulted in another error and a pair of huge unearned runs.
Walker went the distance in the pitcher’s circle for Houston, scattering 7 hits while striking out 6 and walking 3.
The Lady Tigers had 5 hits in the contest, but also benefited from 8 walks and 5 errors committed by the Lady Bobcats.
“We’re not hitting the ball on a consistent basis like we know we’re going to,” Moore said. “That’s an area I think you’re going to see us improve in as the season goes on and the weather warms up.”
Houston sophomore shortstop Sophia Crites missed the game after being hit in the cheek by a ball during warm-ups.
The game marked the second time in about a week that Houston has fallen behind 3-0 in the first inning but won anyway.
“The girls are understanding that we’re not ever out of a ballgame,” Moore said, “and that if they keep believing in what we’re doing then good things are going to happen.”
The Lady Tigers have turned 2 double plays this season and have – for the most part – been solid in the field.
“We’ve been fielding well most of the time,” Moore said, “and that’s a definite bright spot. But we’ve made a few errors and we need to clean up a few things, because when you’re playing those upper-echelon teams, that will come back to bite you in a hurry.
“But I tell the girls that we’re not always going to hit, but there’s no reason we can’t always have good fielding and good pitching. If you do those two things, you’re going to be in ballgames – and we’re doing that.”
BIG INNING LEADS TO ROUT
In a nonconference game Tuesday at Mansfield, Houston posted a 14-2 victory over the host Lady Lions.
The Lady Tigers got on the board first in the contest with 4 runs in the top of the third inning.
Crites led the frame off with a double and later scored on a triple by Walker. Houston then got 2 more runs on an error and added a fourth on a sacrifice fly by Bryan.
The Lady Tigers took control of the contest with 3 runs in the fourth inning. After freshman pinch runner Nola Smith scored on a passed ball with 2 outs, Chipps delivered a 2-run double to center field and Houston was ahead 7-0.
After the host Lady Lions scored twice in the bottom of the fifth inning, the Lady Tigers turned the game into a rout with 7 runs in the top of the sixth.
Reed had an RBI single in the frame, and senior right fielder Rhease Manier smacked a 2-run double.
Walker pitched a complete game in the 6-inning run-rule-shortened contest, allowing 6 hits and 1 earned run, while striking out 2 and walking none.
Houston had 12 hits in the win, with Manier, Walker and junior designated player Kelsey Pritchett recording 2 hits apiece.
The game ended on a nicely executed 5-4-3 double play, as sophomore third baseman Lacey Cavaness fielded a grounder and threw the ball Reed at second, who tossed it to Bryan at first for the final out.
Next week, the Lady Tigers (5-0, 3-0 SCA) host Dixon on Tuesday and SCA rival Cabool on Thursday, and play Saturday in a tournament at Conway. Houston travels to Ava on April 17 for a huge SCA battle that could have a major impact on the race for the conference championship.
“The girls are feeling good,” Moore said. “Their confidence is going up.”