Sometimes in softball, it comes down to who can hit’em where they ain’t and who will hit’em where they are.
That was the case in game one of the 4A State Fast Pitch Softball Championship series between the Bayou Academy Lady Colts and the Magnolia Heights Lady Chiefs here Wednesday.
The Lady Colts struck out just twice at the plate against Magnolia Heights’ pitcher Elena Thompson, but the Lady Chiefs made the plays in the field and turned in a five-run fourth inning to defeat the Lady Colts 7-2.
The Lady Colts (23-6-1) and the Lady Chiefs (30-4-1) will return to the diamond Saturday in Senatobia for game two at 3 p.m. with a game three, if necessary, to follow.
The Lady Chiefs out hit Bayou 10-6. The top four hitters in the Lady Chiefs order, Morgan Jennings, Gracie Mettetal, Kayla Agner and Molly Harris, went a combined 8-for-15 with five runs scored and six RBIs. Peyton McMinn, the Lady Chiefs ninth-place hitter, went 2-for-3 with a run scored and a RBI to round out their offense.
“We had one bad inning,” Bayou head coach Lauren LaSuzzo said. “That’s the difference in the ball game. I told them from the start of this game, they needed to play their best ball. They’ve got to play their best ball and keep it within arm’s length. We had two outs, 0-2 on a batter and we let the girls get a hit. It busted the flood gates, and you can’t do that against them.”
Trailing 2-0 in the top of the fourth, the Lady Colts looked like they were going to have an easy inning as Madison Jenkins retired the first two batters on five pitches. On an 0-2 count, the Lady Chiefs went to work as McMinn stroked a single. The next batter, Jennings, sent McMinn home as she drilled a RBI-double for the first run of the frame. Mettetal socked a RBI-double to send Jennings home with the second run. After Agner drew a walk, Harris smacked a three-run home run to make the score 7-0. Jenkins struck out the last batter to get out of the frame.
Despite the deficit, Bayou didn’t quit.
In the bottom half of the fourth, Emma Short ripped a single to lead off the inning, and Kressie Lindsey followed her up with a single to put two runners on base with no outs. Mary Scott Lofton kept the hit parade going as she drilled a double to drive in Short. Jenkins drove in the second run of the inning as she smacked a fly ball to left field that scored Lindsey to make the score 7-2 with one out. After Marleigh Mancini struck out, Reilly Kate Lack drew a walk to put runners at the corners, but Addie Hawkins ended up hitting a ground ball to third for the third out of the inning.
Jenkins settled down in the circle as she gave up just one hit over the next three innings. Mary Ansley Chrestman and Ayden Aguzzi made the plays at shortstop and third base, while Hawkins played well at first base.
While Jenkins and the rest of the Bayou defense were shutting down Magnolia Heights’ bats, Thompson kept throwing strikes and getting the Lady Colts to pop-up on quick at-bats with the Lady Chiefs making routine plays.
In the bottom of the sixth, Bayou was hitting the ball on the ground more as Jenkins reached on an error by the third baseman with two outs, but the next batter hit a ground ball to shortstop to end the inning.
In the bottom of the seventh with one out, the Lady Colts looked they were about to turn the tide. Hawkins and Chrestman each tagged singles, and Tate Rogers reached base on an error by the shortstop to load the bases with Short in the on-deck circle. On her first pitch of the at-bat, Short hit a line drive, but it was caught by McMinn at second who threw it to Haylee Alberson at shortstop to complete the game-ending double play.
Bayou stranded seven runners on base, while Magnolia Heights left six runners on the bags. The Lady Chiefs committed two errors in the field, while Bayou committed one.
Thompson earned the win as she gave up two runs, all earned, on six hits with two strikeouts and two walks in an 83-pitch, 7-inning complete game.
“We’re hitting her,” LaSuzzo said. “Like I told the girls, we’re hitting her. It’s going right at people. We start putting it in the dirt, and they’re making errors. We’ve got to challenge them. There’s nothing you can do when you hit right at them, but you can’t have a bad inning against them.”
Jenkins took the loss in the circle as she yielded seven runs, all earned, on 10 hits with four strikeouts and a walk in an 89-pitch, 7-inning complete game.
Short anchored Bayou’s offense by going 2-for-4 with a run scored. Lofton went 1-for-3 with a RBI, Lindsey went 1-for-2 with a run scored and Chrestman went 1-for-4 to complete the offensive output for Bayou.