Bulletin Staff Report
FREDERICKSBURG — The No. 9 Early Lady Horns collected their first postseason victory since 2003, earning a 9-4 triumph over the Junction Lady Eagles Friday night in Region I-2A area round softball action.
The last time the Lady Horns chalked up a postseason victory Early was still a member of Class 3A. The Lady Horns’ 2003 playoff win occurred in the second round after a district championship season resulted in a first-round bye, which was the same situation Early found itself in Friday.
The Lady Horns (25-5) will next face Hawley (19-4) in the regional quarterfinals in Eastland. The coaches will meet Monday to determine whether the matchup will be a series or a one-game playoff. Hawley — which advanced to the regional quarterfinals by defeating Sonora in an area round series — eliminated Early in the first round of the playoffs in 2005 and 2006.
In Early’s victory over Junction, the Lady Horn offense posted the game’s first six runs and scored all its runs in the first four innings. Pitcher Janna Allen surrendered five hits and two walks, while striking out seven batters.
The Lady Horns opened the scoring in the top of the first inning as Shandi Winstead’s RBI single plated Tylene Middleton, who doubled with two outs.
Early increased its lead to 3-0 in the top of the second inning. Julia Loudermilk and Angela Sanderson started the inning with singles, then Kaitlin Sliger sacrificed the runners over a base. Sarah Russell’s bunt allowed Loudermilk to score, then Kayla Dickerson ripped an RBI double that brought home Callie Ellis, who was pinch-running for Sanderson.
The Lady Horns pushed their advantage to 6-0 in the third inning. Winstead and Bailey Harris singled prior to a two-out, two-RBI double by Sanderson. Sliger then followed with an RBI single to right field that plated Sanderson.
“I haven’t seen us hit the ball that hard all year long,” said Lady Horns head coach Bryan Waller. “We played great offensively. Getting out to that big lead was tremendous. I think Junction was a little overwhelmed by the caliber of team we were. I don’t think they believed we could hit the ball as well as we did.”
Junction cut Early’s lead to 6-2 in the bottom of the third, but Early answered with a second three-spot in the fourth inning. Middleton’s RBI double scored Dickerson, who reached on a fielder’s choice, with the seventh Lady Horn run. Winstead followed with an RBI single the plated Middleton and Tresta Donahoo added an RBI base hit that drove in Winstead.
Early saw its lead shrink to 9-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning, but Allen and the Lady Horn defense held Junction scoreless during its final two at-bats.
“Janna was her usual self,” Waller said. “She made them chase bad pitches and kept them off balance all night. They had a couple of good hits and we had some lax moments on defense they capitalized on. We didn’t let that get us down, though, and Janna finished them off.”