Down by three runs in the series opener and 10 runs in the second game, the District 6-3A champion Early Lady Horns dug their way out of both holes en route to eliminating the Boyd Lady Jackets from the playoffs with an area round sweep.
The Lady Horns’ (26-7) latest challenge comes from the District 8-3A third seed Peaster Lady Hounds (17-10), with a best-of-three Region I-3A quarterfinals series slated to take place at Abilene Christian University Thursday and Friday. Game 1 will have a 6 p.m. first pitch, with Games 2 and 3, if needed, to follow Friday at the same time.
Early head coach Alfonso Chavez stated the Lady Horns’ confidence level is at an all-time high since rallying for a 13-11 victory in Game 2 over Boyd, after clawing back for an 8-6 win in Game 1.
“That was huge for our confidence and the girls are riding high right now,” Chavez said. “We know what kind of team we have if we put it all together — no errors and hitting the ball. We know when we play like that, we’re going to be hard to beat.”
After spotting Boyd a 10-0 lead in the second game of the series, Early cut into the deficit with a four-run third inning then took control with eight runs in the fifth.
“The second game our No. 2 pitcher, Laiken Reagan, came in to play big time because I had to pull Makayla DeLeon in the first inning,” Chavez said. “Laiken came in and pitched one heck of a game for us.
“Our bats started to work in the bottom of the third inning and we started to hit the ball very well. We finished with seven doubles and two triples, and one through nine everybody hit the ball and contributed to the comeback. It was something else to see. The girls never gave up.”
The Lady Horns’ decisive eight-run fifth inning included a double down the left field line by Makayla DeLeon, which was followed by an RBI double from Reagan. Ashlyn Kirby then singled and Emma Loven reached on an error which brought home another run. Gabby Constancia walked and Parker Smith delivered an infield single, then Sydnee Shea ripped a three-RBI double that evened the score at 10-all. DeLeon then singled home Shea for an 11-10 advantage, while Reagan doubled home DeLeon to boost the lead to 12-10.
Early relied on a similar formula in the Game 1 victory, though the deficit to overcome wasn’t nearly as challenging.
“The first game we were down by three and it just took us a little bit to get adjusted to their pitcher,” Chavez said, “but then our bats really got going. Defensively, we had a couple of errors that hurt us, but other than that, our bats just weren’t working early.”
Peaster needed three games to upend Clyde last weekend, winning the series opener 8-4 before falling in the second game, 4-3. Trailing by a run late in Game 3, Peaster scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning to claim a 6-5 victory.
“Peaster’s the third-place team out of a very hard district and I really think they could have won a lot of the districts in Region I,” Chavez said. “They can hit the ball very well and we need to make sure their main batters, the No. 3 and No. 4 holes, don’t hurt us with people on base. We’ll have to eliminate the bases on ball and errors. It’ll be a battle to see who comes out ahead. It may come down to whoever makes the fewest errors. A small error here or there can hurt you.”
The series winner will advance to face either Wall or Presidio in the Region I-3A semifinals next weekend.