GLADEWATER — Heart and determination can go a long way come playoff time, and Gladewater illustrated that Saturday by completing a 3A softball area round upset.
The Lady Bears overcame a three-run deficit with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to defeat Lindale 11-10 in eight innings on arguably one of the most exciting plays in sports — the squeeze.
Much of the excitement began in the top of the seventh, when state-ranked Lindale, who faced elimination after losing game one of the best-of-three series Friday night, broke a 7-7 tie with three runs. After an error allowed the first run of the frame to score, the Lady Eagles pushed across a run on a sacrifice fly and a single by Jennifer Miller.
Lindale took the field with redemption on its mind and after two quick outs looked poised to force a third and decisive game. But five straight hits for Gladewater tied the game at 10 to send it to extra innings.
Melanie Stephens and Rachael Hitt started the rally with back-to-back doubles to push across the first run. Sarah Hunger followed with a single and moved to second on a throw home, which held Hitt at third.
With runners at second and third, Keambria Hunter singled to bring home Hitt and make it a one-run game, and Brooklyn Davis followed with a double to tie the game. A perfect relay throw from Lindale shortstop Heather Gilbert cut down Hunter at home who’d tried to score the winning run from first.
The Lady Eagles put their lead-off batter on in the eighth, but stranded her at third to keep the score tied at 10.
In the bottom of the inning, Victoria Barton got things started for the Lady Bears with a one-out single into left. Alyssa Jalomo batted next and bunted in an attempt to move Barton to second, but an errant throw allowed Jalomo to move to second and Barton to third.
The error set up Katy Stephens to win the game, and on the second pitch she bunted up the first base line. Lindale first baseman Miller fielded the bunt cleanly and flipped to home, but not in time to beat Barton who had taken off at the pitch.
“It worked,” Gladewater head coach Kelly Stuckey said. “It was a perfect pitch to do it. I said we were going to do it on the second pitch and we did it … when we had to score they came through and finished this game.”
The three-run deficit was not the only hole the Lady Bears crawled out of. Lindale posted four runs in the top of the first on a grand slam home run by Kathryn Wright. The Lady Eagles added a run in the second and third to lead 6-4 after three innings.
Gladewater scored two runs in the fifth inning to tie the contest at seven on hits from Melanie Stephens and Hunger.
The win for the Lady Bears eliminates Lindale from postseason play, which ends their season with a 24-5-1.
“That’s a good ball club,” Lindale head coach Ken White said. “Our seniors are the reason we’re here. We wouldn’t be here without them. I credit our success to their leadership.”
Three of White’s seniors, Miller (Northeast Texas College), Kayla Cosby (Trinity Valley Community College) and Mariah Millington (East Texas Baptist), plan to play at the next level next year.
As for Gladewater (24-7), it moves on to the Region II Quarterfinal Round where it will face district foe Henderson. The one-game series is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday in Whitehouse.
Class 3A Area Softball Playoff
At Gladewater Softball Field, Gladewater
Gladewater wins series 2-0
Gladewater 11, No. 7 Lindale 10
Lindale 411 010 30 — 10 17 4
Gladewater 220 120 31 — 11 19 6
Kayla Cosby and Kathryn Wright. Katie Hickey and Melanie Stephens. W – Hickey L – Cosby. LOB – Lindale 11, Gladewater 11. E – Jennifer Miller, Heather Gilbert, Sarah McGregor, Mariah Millington; Katy Stephens (3), Sarah Hunger (2), Keambria Hunter. 2B – Cosby, Miller, Millington; Melanie Stephens (2), Rachael Hitt (2), Brooklyn Davis. 3B – Hunger. HR – Wright (1st inning, 3 runners on). SF – Wright.
NEXT?UP — Gladewater vs. Henderson, 6:30 p.m. Friday in Whitehouse.