EASTLAND — An uncharacteristic six-error performance by the No. 9 Early Lady Horns led to three unearned runs, and Hawley pitcher Pee Wee Burton surrendered just one hit as the Lady Cats picked up a 3-1 victory and a 1-0 advantage in Region I-2A softball quarterfinals series action Friday night.
The Lady Horns (25-6) need two wins today when the series resumes at noon to extend their season. With a loss, Early would have three of its last four postseason appearances end at the hands of Hawley (23-8).
“It’s going to come down to how bad we want it,” said Lady Horns head coach Bryan Waller. “We have to win two and we can win two. We just have to want it more than Hawley does.”
Hawley, which had been held without a hit by Early pitcher Janna Allen through the first four innings, took the lead in the top of the fifth with two hits and a pair of unearned runs.
With one out, Becca Barber beat out an infield single to shortstop, then Jessica Akins doubled to the gap in left-center field. The two base runners later advanced on a passed ball.
Allen — who gave up just four hits — recorded the fourth of her six strikeouts for the second out of the inning. Chelsea Phillips then followed with a sharp grounder to short that deflected off the glove of Tylene Middleton and into the outfield, which allowed Hawley to grab a 2-1 edge.
The Lady Cats added an insurance run in the top of the seventh thanks to another Early miscue.
Barber led off the seventh by reaching on a ball second baseman Bailey Harris could not gather. Akins then singled to shallow center field, which set the table for Phillips’ RBI bullet single to left field.
“That’s one of the things in the game that happens,” said Waller of Early’s error issues. “I thought we could overcome them but we couldn’t. The mistakes cost us.”
Early put a base runner on in the bottom of the seventh as Harris recorded the Lady Horns’ lone hit with one out. But Burton retired Julia Loudermilk on a strikeout and got Angela Sanderson to ground out to the third base to seal the victory.
A week after piling up nine runs in their area round victory over Junction, the Lady Horns put just four runners on base — with three occurring due to via Hawley errors.
Hawley’s first miscue of the game allowed Early to grab a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
With one out, Kayla Dickerson wound up at third base after a wild throw on her grounder in the infield resulted in a three-base error. The next batter to the plate — Middleton — lofted a deep fly ball to right field, which allowed Dickerson to score on the sacrifice fly.
The only other Lady Horn to advance to third base was Tresta Donahoo, who reached on an error with two outs in the bottom of the fourth. Donahoo stole second and moved to third on a passed ball, but Burton retired Harris on a pop out and Early’s lead remained 1-0.
Burton, who allowed three hits and struck out eight in an 8-1 bi-district win over Early in 2006, fanned three Lady Horns Friday. Only four balls put in play by Early advanced past the infield dirt, and in three of their seven trips to the plate Lady Horns were retired in order.
“They got in our head and we didn’t come to the plate like we’re supposed to,” Waller said. “We didn’t take the ball to where she pitched it. We had some hard hits, it just went right to them at times.”
The team that emerges victorious from this series will face either Post (20-5) or Stinnett (21-7) in the regional semifinals next weekend.