LORENA — Whether there were a bit of nerves mixed in with rust, the Salado Lady Eagles were ramped up to do something no Salado softball team had done since the turn of the century.
Win a playoff game.
A three-run first inning helped steady junior pitcher Morgan Hill as the Lady Eagles held on for a 4-2 victory over Clifton in a Class 2A bi-district playoff game Monday night.
Salado (21-4) will face Corsicana Mildred in a best-of-three area round series beginning Thursday at Waco ISD's softball complex. Clifton ended the year 18-14.
“Not playing for a week and a half, our bats weren’t as hot as they usually are,” Salado coach Kory Craddick said. “We started hitting the ball at certain times and did what we needed to do.”
The last time Salado made it to the second round of the 2A playoffs was in 2000, when the Lady Eagles defeated Moody 4-0 before falling to Lexington 7-1 in area. Salado, which last made the playoffs in 2009, has never advanced past the area round, having previously lost to Shiner in area in 1999.
Despite some shakiness and giving up a first-inning run, Hill carried a no-hitter into the fifth and finished with a three-hitter.
“I was very frustrated because I felt like I was getting squeezed a little bit,” said Hill, who struck out five, walked five and hit one. “I had to adjust. (The three-run first) comforted me a lot. I could just chill and do what I do.”
Clifton manufactured a run in the first as Paige Culp reached on an error, stole second and third and came home on a double-steal.
Salado answered with three runs in the bottom of the frame on four straight hits off of Culp. Reagan Best singled to right and CeCe Cantu followed with a bunt single to set the plate for Malory Schattle, who drove both home on a double over right fielder Ally Reel.
Shyenne Hicks hammered a one-hop double off the wall in left-center to drive in Schattle for the early 3-1 lead.
“We do like to start out that way,” said Hicks. “We were able to come out strong and played our own game. It was pretty.”
Salado added a run in the third to make it 4-1. Cantu led off with a walk and went to second on a wild pitch. Hicks smashed a shot off of Culp’s leg that got through the middle to score Cantu.
Clifton stayed within striking distance by adding a run in the fifth.
Rachael Anderson delivered a one-out single through the right side of the infield to break up Hill’s no-hitter. Anderson reached second on a groundout before scoring on a two-out double by Marti Hanson.
The Lady Cubs placed two runners in scoring position, but Hill retired Payton Odom on a weak infield fly to escape.
Hill held the Lady Cubs scoreless in the final two innings to preserve the win.
It marked only the third time the Lady Eagles had ever reached the playoffs and this was the first postseason win.
“This is great,” said Hill. “It’s awesome to be a part of it.”