HEWITT — The state tournament was so close Salado could taste it.
In the end, though, top-ranked Crawford proved to be too much for the Lady Eagles, who watched their playoff run end in the Class 2A Region III final.
The Lady Pirates broke open the rubber match of the best-of-three series with a seven-run seventh inning and punched their ticket to their second state tournament in three years with a 13-2 victory over Salado on Saturday afternoon at Midway High School.
“These girls worked hard all year long. They worked for this and beyond,” Salado head coach Kory Craddick said. “Unfortunately things just didn’t roll our way. We didn’t make some plays this weekend.”
Salado (32-9) took the first game of the series 8-6 Thursday to hand Crawford (33-1) its first loss of the season, but the Lady Pirates — the 2012 Class 2A state champions — came back to take Game 2 11-3 and force Saturday’s decisive contest.
Crawford led Game 3 from the second inning on after Ashton Chambers and Cheyenne Lynch slid under tags at the plate.
The Lady Pirates made it 3-0 with an unearned run in the third, before the Lady Eagles put together their lone rally.
Josie Norman’s two-out, infield single to third base drove in Malory Schattle, who got on with a one-out double off the left-center field wall.
After Kristen Oakes drew a two-out walk and a passed ball put two runners in scoring position, CeCe Cantu singled to left field to bring in Norman and make it 3-2.
It was as close as Salado got the rest of the game as a pair of errors and a wild pitch in the fourth allowed Crawford to stretch its lead to 6-2.
Shyenne Hicks relieved starter Morgan Hill (19-6) in the fifth and pitched two scoreless innings before everything fell apart.
An RBI double by Korie Dutschmann, a bases-loaded walk drawn by Jessica Tomchesson, a sacrifice fly to center field by Tori Phillips that was dropped, and sacrifice fly by Morgan Groppe quickly made it 10-2 before Sydney Christensen put the game well out of reach with a three-run homer.
“We put the ball in play well tonight,” said Crawford coach Kirk Allen, who was in Salado’s shoes a year ago when his team lost in the regional finals. “We found some gaps out there, which is great and we got lucky on a couple plays where they weren’t able to throw the ball cleanly. For the most part, we just put the ball in play.”
The Lady Eagles tried to get something going in the bottom of the seventh with a two-out walk drawn by Cantu that loaded the bases, but Dutschmann got Grace Tauferner to fly out to center to end the game.
Dutschmann (15-0) got the win in relief, giving up three hits and two walks in four scoreless innings. Starter Carrigan Chambers gave up two runs on seven hits and one walk in three innings.
“We didn’t have a good couple of days, but they kept fighting,” Craddick said. “We needed some hits at key times. We didn’t really string anything together. We got some runners on late in innings and couldn’t move them around.”
REGION III-2A CHAMPIONSHIP
- Game 1 — THURSDAY: Salado 8, Crawford 6
- Game 2 — FRIDAY: Crawford 11, Salado 3
- Game 3 — SATURDAY: Crawford 13, Salado 2, Crawford wins series 2-1