DUBLIN— The Comanche Maidens dashed the Early Lady Horns’ hopes of an outright District 6-3A softball championship and No. 1 playoff seed after besting them twice Friday.
Early fell to Comanche 10-2 and 15-12 to end the regular season as the no. 2 seed from District 6-3A and will face Merkel in the bi-district round of the playoffs.
“Youth and nerves got to us,” Early head coach Alfonso Chavez said. “Some of these younger kids have not been in a pressure game. We’ll be fine for playoffs.”
A victory Friday afternoon would have given the Lady Horns the outright district championship after they dispatched the Maidens 5-2 at home on April 3.
After trailing 7-0 by the end of the second inning in Friday’s first game, Early knew it was in for a dogfight. After flirting with the run-rule all game, Vance-Cady Gordon scored Early’s first run of the day on a passed ball in the sixth, then an RBI double by Sydnee Shea added another run in the seventh, but could not generate enough momentum for a rally with Comanche standout pitcher Chloe Williams tallying double-digit strikeouts on the day.
“She was mainly throwing rise balls and curve balls,” Chavez said. “It was one of those things that we could not get a hold of at first, but once we got the timing of it, it was a little too late.”
The loss forced a tie-breaker game in Dublin hours later and after the first few innings the Lady Horns seemed on the verge of victory. A pair of RBI triples by Alexa Portillo and Gordon assisted Early in jumping out to a 9-0 lead by the bottom of the third.
“They’re not going to give up,” Chavez said. “That is the type of girls we have. They’re not going to give up no matter what. They’re going to keep working at it.”
The Maidens recalled Williams to the mound after the second inning, who held Early to just three runs from there. As Williams heated up so did Comanche’s bats and a pair of seven-run innings in the fourth and sixth, with a slew of Early fielding and pitching miscues, contributing to the Lady Horns’ downfall.
The Maidens rallied to take the lead and would not be threatened until the seventh and final inning, when a line-drive RBI double by pitcher MaKayla DeLeon plated Early’s first runner since the third inning. Attentive batting loaded the bases with walks, eventually scoring Shea, but with two outs an untimely pop-up ended the game.
The Lady Horns will face Merkel in the opening round of the UIL playoffs. Chavez said his team bested them earlier this season 2-1 in a tournament, but that was a long time ago and both teams have developed since then.
“We only went four innings and it was a pool (tournament) game,” Chavez said. “It was a 2-1 game. It’s going to be close … We just need to put it behind us and go back to fundamentals. It will help us a lot next week.”
The bi-district series begins at 5 p.m. Thursday at Abilene Christian University and concludes with Games 2 and 3, if needed, at the same location starting at 2 p.m. Saturday.