EARLY — On Tuesday night both Bangs and Early opened District 6-3A play in softball, with the Lady Horns playing host to the Lady Dragons. The expression ‘it came down to the wire’ fits the game like a glove, no pun intended, as Early won in the bottom of the seventh inning, 8-7.

Leading up to last night, both teams had seen success on the diamond this season. Early entered the contest with a record of 13-6, with Bangs having almost exactly the same, possessing a 13-5 record overall.

When you mix early in the season success with the fact that the game is a rivalry, you have all the makings for a good one, which is exactly what Tuesday’s game was.

Bangs didn’t have much luck at the plate in the first inning, but the Lady Horns managed to take an early lead when catcher Parker Smith scored thanks to short stop Laiken Reagan’s RBI.

In the top of the second the Lady Dragons seemed to be putting it all together offensively, going as far as loading the bases thanks to a couple of strong hits and a walk. However, they had compiled two outs in the process of doing so, which was too much to overcome and they were unable to capitalize on it, going scoreless yet again.

Early managed to get in scoring position as well in the inning, but much like their opponent, were unable to make anything out of it.

After a strikeout to start the top of the third, Bangs’ bats began to come alive yet again. Brianna Zapata was the next at-bat and hit a double to right field, which was followed by a single from Ashlynn Emerson to put runners on the corners. Emerson was then thrown out trying to steal second, but the Lady Dragons got a big hit by Kialie Dodson and an error by Early that allowed Zapata to score the tying run. The side was retired two batters later, when Dodson tried to score to go ahead run after a hit to right field by Corhen Hinze.

Even though Bangs had begun to see offensive success, the Lady Horns didn’t flinch and answered in a big way.

Chloe Clowdus started off the inning with a single, followed by a great hit from Sydnee Shea that sailed to center field and drove in Clowdus, giving Early the lead yet again. They followed that run up with three more, thanks in part to a line drive down the middle from Ashlyn Kirby who drove Shea in, a RBI single from ShaunnaKay Connelly and finally a RBI grounder from Emma Loven.

The side was retired due to Kirby trying to advance to third base after Loven’s hit, but the damage was done and the Lady Horns seemed to be in control of the game, leading Bangs 5-1.

Although when it comes to sports, things aren’t always what they seem.

Instead of lying down and giving up, the Lady Dragons built on their offensive momentum from the previous inning and began to fight back immediately.

Bangs’ Kenzie Baker started the fourth inning off with a single and then was moved to third base thanks to a double to center field from Taylor Mallett. Vanessa Perez then hit a ball deep to center field, resulting in two RBIs and cutting Early’s lead down to two. The very next play Zapata hit another ball to center field, driving in Perez, bringing the score to 5-4. Two batters later the bases were loaded again and Bangs was dangerously close to taking the lead. Unfortunately for the Lady Dragons, a strikeout immediately after, followed by an easy ground out to third base concluded the inning.

Afterward, Early went three and out, but still was on top 5-4.

With two outs and a runner on third base, the Lady Dragons put up another run in the fifth to tie the game when Perez hit a RBI triple that allowed Baker to score.

Early once again saw their woes continue on offense, going three up, three down in the bottom of the inning.

Bangs then continued the trend, going three up and three down again to start the sixth inning. Meanwhile, the Lady Horns couldn’t get anything going either.

The last inning began with a 5-5 tie between the two teams, but it didn’t last for long. Due to a Lady Horns error of overthrowing the first baseman, Bangs’ Baker gets a triple and sent Hinze in to score to go ahead run in the process. With no outs and a runner on third, Anderson then hit a deep shot to right field that resulted in an RBI double with Baker scoring to bring the game to 7-5.

The next three batters struck out, but the damage was done. Bangs had a two point lead and if Early was going to score, the time was now.

They did just that.

Down 7-5, Early first two batters both hit singles. Shea then did the same, but her hit gave Clowdus a chance to score and cut the lead down to one. Makayla Deleon then bunted, which resulted in a double, but as Smith tried to score the tying run, she was thrown out at the plate.

Regardless, two runners were now in scoring position with only one out. Reagan was next up to bat and came through in a big way, sending the ball sailing to the fence line, while driving in two runs to win the game 8-7.

Early softball head coach Alfonso Chavez said he couldn’t be prouder of how his girls fought for the victory.

“What an amazing game,” Chavez said. “That was something else, but I knew they had it in them. I told them before we went out there at the end to just do what they do. I knew they were capable of it and they knew it. These girls work so hard and that’s why. I am so proud of how hard they fought until the very end.”

For Bangs first year softball coach Beau Burnett, the outcome wasn’t what he hoped, but he felt the same way about his team.

“The ball didn’t bounce our way,” said Burnett. “It happens. But these girls fought and they fought until the end. They played a great game all the way through. We went down early on, but fought back. Give credit to Early though, because they did the same. This was a battle between the two teams. I’m excited on how well these girls played, win or lose. They did great. You just have to keep fighting.”