BANGS — Early-inning defensive miscues cost the Lady Dragons on Friday night in Bangs, as they fell to the Lady Horns of Early 3-1 in a tight District 6-3A softball contest.

With the win, Early (19-6, 6-0) capped a district sweep of Bangs (17-6, 4-2) and the first-place Lady Horns opened a two-game lead over both the Lady Dragons and Comanche (16-7, 4-2) with four games left.

Trailing by two runs entering the bottom of the seventh, the Lady Dragons loaded the bases with just one out against Early starter Makayla Deleon, who had allowed just three hits all night. Bangs had earned a much-needed baserunner to begin the frame, as Corhen Hinze took first after getting nicked in the elbow. Karlie Little pushed Hinze to second with a sacrifice bunt, and shortstop Kenzie Baker then worked a full-count walk to bring the winning run to the plate.

Careful pitching to pitcher Erin Anderson then loaded the bases for Bangs, setting up a tense at-bat when Taylor Malett stepped to the plate. But Malett lined the very first pitch she saw right to Sydnee Shea at third base, who quickly stepped on her bag to force out Hinze and end the ballgame in a flash.

The Lady Horns put the pressure on right away, bringing home two runs in the top of the first. Catcher Parker Smith led off the inning with an infield single, but was erased trying to take third when Shea hit a ball through the shortstop’s legs.

But the error came back to bite the Lady Dragons anyway. Deleon beat out another infield single back to the pitcher, and aggressive baserunning led Bangs to throw the ball into center when Deleon ran for second base. Both Shea and Deleon came around to score on the play.

The Lady Dragons threatened in the bottom of the second. Kialie Dodson started the inning by taking first on a hit by pitch, and two batters later Hinze managed a bunt single. A sacrifice from Little got Dodson to third base, and Baker worked the count full after starting out 0-2, but she swung through a hard inside pitch to end the Bangs threat and strand the two runners in scoring position.

Early took advantage and plated another run in the third. An Anderson wild pitch took Shea to second after she legged out an infield single. The Lady Dragons had a chance to tag Shea out when the catcher Malett threw behind her and caught her between second and third, but Shea dived back in safely to second and got out of the rundown. Shea scored on a Deleon triple just a few pitches later.

Anderson settled down in the circle for Bangs, and she cruised through the fourth inning by striking out the side in order. In fact, Early only managed one hit for the rest of the game. Deleon responded in kind, going three-up, three-down with two groundouts in the bottom of the fourth.

The two pitchers kept rolling until the bottom of the fifth, after Deleon had retired the first two Lady Dragon batters on strikeouts and looked to be heading for another quick inning. Anderson stepped in with the bases empty, looking to start a late rally. But when a two-strike pitch caught too much of the plate, Anderson turned on it and launched a solo homer over the left-field fence for Bangs’s first run of the night, helping her own cause.

After Early was unable to answer, the Lady Dragons nearly cut the deficit to just one in the home half of the sixth when Vanessa Perez led off the inning with a double to left-center that dropped just in front of the center fielder. Right fielder Ashlynn Emerson then hit a slow grounder to third, charging hard and creating a bang-bang play at first base that could have put two on with no out. But the close call went against her. Perez advanced to third but never made it home after a strikeout and groundout to end the inning.

In the circle, Deleon got the win with a three-hit complete game gem. She walked three and struck out five Bangs hitters, while Anderson struck out seven Lady Horns.