By JUSTIN RAINS
For four solid innings, the Neches softball team looked primed to move on to the area round of the playoffs.
Then, things fell apart in the final three.
With their bi-district playoff game against Lovelady tied 3-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh, Neches allowed a two-out single to Beth Thompson, a hit which scored Baylee Mikes to hand the playoff win to the Lady Lions, 4-3.
Mikes had scored when her swing had hit the glove of Neches catcher Kelsee Wade to advance to first on catcher’s interference. She then moved to second on a ground ball out before scoring.
Neches had tied things at 3-3 in the top of the inning, but will look back on what they left on the table.
Kylie Timmons led off the inning with a walk before moving to second on a past ball.
McKay-Lee Chapman then came up with one out and hit a ground ball to shortstop, but she beat then throw to first base.
Timmons, however, did not beat the throw from first back to third as she tried to advance, getting tagged out for the second out of the inning.
Wade then walked, and pitcher Katie Grove hit a single to center that scored Chapman to tie things up at 3-3.
Avery Nuna then drew a walk to load the bases for Haley Kendrick, but her hard grounder to shortstop was collected and she was thrown out.
Neches took the lead in the second inning, when Wade led off with a single and then stole second. Grove followed that with her own single, and after a strikeout, Nuna walked to load the bases.
In the next at-bat, Saraya Tyner walked to bring in Wade and keep the bases loaded and the Neches threat alive.
After another strikeout, Timmons delivered for the Lady Tigers, knocking a single to center that scored Grove to put the Lady Tigers up 2-0.
It looked, for the first four innings, that that would be all the support Grove would need.
The freshman hurler bent but didn’t break in the first four innings, striking out five along the way. But, she got into trouble in the fifth.
She walked Courtney Freeman, the leadoff hitter and Riley Wiggins followed that with a dribbler in front of home plate. But, when Wade fielded the ball and threw to first, it hit Wiggins running down the line.
That allowed Freeman to attempt to take third, but the throw to try and gun her down was high and she went on to score and Wiggins moved all the way to second on the play.
Courtlynn Howard then singled to put runners on the corners, before stealing second to put two runners in scoring position for Mikes.
The Lady Lion freshman delivered, blasting a ball to deep left-center field, scoring both Howard and Wiggins in the process and giving Lovelady the 3-2 lead.
ELKHART 7, Crockett 0
The Elkhart baseball team sent one of the most successful senior classes in recent memory out with a win Thursday, as the Elks wrapped up the regular season with a 7-0 defeat of visiting Crockett.
With the victory, the Elks clinched a share of the District 19-2A title with rival Central Heights, though Elkhart will go into the playoffs as the district’s No. 2 seed. The Elks open the postseason Thursday, when they begin a three-game series with Hemphill.
Thursday, Hunter Parker pitched the complete game shut-out for the Elks to earn the victory.
Sports editor Justin Rains can be reached via email at email@example.com