Corsicana — The Lady Gladiators overcame an 0-2 start in district play to finish as the 2014 district runner-up to earn a spot in the playoffs for the second straight season.
In a one game, winner plays on bi-district matchup against the Mart Lady Panthers on Thursday in Corsicana, the Lady Gladiators were feeling good about things after riding a 8 game winning streak into the first-round of the playoffs. Confidence was high, as they say.
Top of the first-inning:
Italy was off to a good start when junior hit maestro Jaclynn Lewis singled to get on base despite Italy having 2 outs against them. Cassidy Childers entered the game to pinch run for Lewis. Madison Washington followed with a double to score Childers giving the Lady Gladiators a, nerve calming, 1-0 lead. Italy flied out to end the top half of the inning.
Bottom of the first-inning:
With Lewis now on the mound, the Lady Panthers responded in a big way with their opening at bat. Mart recorded 4 hits, including a 2RBI triple and a RBI double, and forced 2 errors by the Lady Gladiator defense to throw 6 runs up on the board. It was worse case scenario for Italy. During the chaos, a gutsy play was turned in by second-baseman Bailey Eubank who knocked down a liner and then got to her feet in time to toss the ball over to Washington for the force out at second. Eubank’s efforts put 2 outs on the board but Mart was far from done.
Lewis finally ended Mart’s hitting barrage with her first strikeout of the game to get the Lady Gladiators off the field, but not before Mart had passed Italy on the scoreboard, 6-1. The Lady Gladiators would now have to spend the rest of the game trying to climb out of a very deep hole.
Top of the second-inning:
Italy quickly went back to work on offense. Their bats become more like shovels as they desperately began filling in that hole. Italy’s only senior on the squad, Paige Westbrook was more like a foreman on a job site as she led off with sharp single up the middle to get on base. Wallis slap hit the ball into play and managed to reach first-base but Westbrook was forced out at second.
Britney Chambers slap hit her way onto base and Wallis advanced to second to give Italy a spark. Eubank slap hit a ball into play and reached first-base after an error by Mart’s infield allowed Italy to load the bases. Italy’s next batter struck out looking, 2 outs. Kelsey Nelson approaches the plate and three pitches in, “Whammo!” Nelson sends a hard shot over the Lady Panther infielders and into the outfield for a 3RBI double. Wallis, Chambers and Eubank each crossed home plate standing up, and just like that, Nelson had the Lady Gladiators back in the game, but still trailing Mart 6-4.
Italy’s next batter grounded out for the third out.
Bottom of the second-inning:
Mart fired right back to answer Italy’s challenge, scoring 2 more runs on 4 hits but with no errors by Italy’s defense. Wallis caught a pop-up in right for the first out and then Lewis struck out one Mart batter looking and the other swinging to keep the damage at a minimum. Mart increased their lead to 8-4 but the next Lady Gladiator batters were quick getting their helmets back on and taking some practice swings outside their dugout.
Top of the third-inning:
Italy’s first batter flied out but Lillie Perry doubles to get things started. With Westbrook trying to win another battle at the plate, Perry steals third-base. Westbrook lines out to second-base. Perry is left stranded at third when Italy’s next batter grounds out to first. The score remains in favor of Mart, 8-4.
Bottom of the third-inning:
Mart leads off with a single but Lewis strikes out their next batter swinging for the first out. Third-baseman April Lusk collects a pop-up in foul territory for the second out. Unfortunately, another series of Lady Panther hits added another run to the Mart side of the score board to make the count 9-4. Lusk secures a throw for a force out third to end the inning.
Top of the fourth-inning:
Chambers leads off with a single. Eubank uses a sacrifice bunt to move Chambers to second. Italy’s next batter flies out to third. Nelson earns a walk to give Italy a pair of runners on base. Lewis records her second hit of the game to score Chambers from second, 9-5 with Mart still in front. Italy’s next batter grounds out to second but the Lady Gladiators at least got the chipping away process started.
Bottom of the fourth-inning:
Lewis strikes out Mart’s first batter swinging. The next two Mart batters hit pop flies down the first base line where Westbrook makes back-to-back catches for consecutive outs to end the inning. The score is still 9-5.
Top of the fifth-inning:
Needing to make some noise, Perry gets things going with a single. Westbrook drives a pitch toward the mound injuring Mart’s pitcher who goes down in pain. Westbrook reaches first-base on what’s technically ruled a throwing error. Perry advanced to second. There is delay in the game while Mart’s pitcher is giving a chance to recover and get her legs back under her. She remains in the contest but Italy quickly takes advantage of her situation. Perry steals third on a wild pitch and Westbrook goes to second on the existing error. Wallis earns a walk, and once again, the Lady Gladiators have the bases loaded!
Perry soon scores on a wild pitch to make the score 9-6. Westbrook takes third-base and Wallis takes second. Italy’s next batter flies out for the first out of the first out. Eubank grounds out to the mound but scores Westbrook from third. Mart’s advantage dwindles down to a 2 run cushion, 9-7. Wallis reaches third-base but Italy’s next batter strikes out swinging for the third out.
Bottom of the fifth-inning:
Mart singles to start the frame. The next batter hits into a double play with Lewis securing the shallow pop-up back to the mound and then throwing over to first-base to catch Mart’s base runner trying to get back. Westbrook makes the catch standing on the bag for the force out. The next Lady Panther batter drives a hard shot into left field where Chambers hustles back to get a glove on it, but the ball pops out of her mitt. The play results into a triple for the Lady Panthers but the scoreboard is unchanged. The next batter pops-up to third with Lusk making the catch for the third out, keeping Italy within striking distance of Mart’s 9-7 lead on the scoreboard.
Top off the sixth-inning:
Italy’s first batter grounds out to third but Italy’s next batter, Lewis, well she hits an over-the-fence home run that easily clears the centerfield wall. It was just a solo shot but it pulled Italy within 1 run of the Lady Panthers, 9-8, with plenty of ballgame remaining to play. It was the second out-of-park home run for Lewis this season. Italy’s next batter grounds out but Perry gets on with a walk. Westbrook goes the plate and does what any senior would do in her position, gets a hit! The Lady Gladiators now had two runners on base at first and second while trailing by just 1 run. A grounder hit to second is played well by Mart who manage the third out they needed.
Bottom of the sixth-inning:
1, 2, 3! Lewis takes down all three of Mart’s next batters by getting them all to swing and miss on strike-three. Score remains 9-8 in favor of Mart.
Top of of the seventh-inning:
With the game and their playoff lives on the line, Italy’s first batter strikes out swinging but Eubank appears to get on base after a placing bunt down the third-base line. The close call at first goes in Mart’s favor and Eubank is ruled out. First-base coach Michael Chambers steps onto the infield to question the call but the ruling stood. Eubank would have represented the game tying runner for Italy but the call zapped a bit of Italy’s momentum. On the very next pitch, Italy’s next batter lines out to second for the third out to end the game. And with that, Mart’s players began their championship celebration with the Lady Gladiators and their fans stunned in disbelief.
The same character showed by the Lady Gladiators while they chipped away at the lead was still on display as Italy lined up to congratulate Mart in a show of sportsmanship, no matter how hard that might have been.
Lewis finished with 8 strikeouts for the Lady Gladiators but Mart’s 12 hits outnumbered Italy’s hit total of 11 by one, with one being the difference on the scoreboard, 9-8 in favor of Mart. Lewis led Italy with 3 hits, including 2 singles and the home run ball and 2RBIs. Nelson had that 3 run double while Eubank and Washington had an RBI each. Westbrook, Perry and Chambers each had two hits with Perry and Washington also recording doubles.
Fortunately, the Lady Gladiators are still loaded with talented veterans that will be back next season to make yet another playoff run. It’s gonna be a long wait until next season but its gonna be worth it!
Lady Gladiator 2014 Playoff Roster:
|Lady Gladiator||Jersey #|
- Wayne Rowe
- Tina Richards
- Johnny Jones
- Michael Chambers
- Taylor Turner
- Monserrat Figueroa
- Brycelen Richards