WACO — A long day of softball saw the Salado Lady Eagles seemingly rise from the ashes in dramatic fashion only to see it slip away in the end.
Just two outs away from elimination, Salado’s Shyenne Hicks blasted a grand slam over the right-field fence to tie up the Lady Eagles’ decisive third game with Corsicana Mildred in the top half of the seventh inning.
However, Mildred’s Savannah Pritchett delivered a walk-off RBI single to score Morgan McCreary in the bottom of the inning and lift Mildred to a stunning 7-6 victory to complete a Saturday doubleheader sweep of Salado at the Waco ISD Complex.
“That’s been like us all year,” said Salado coach Kory Craddick of his team’s rally. “Of the 27 girls in this program we’ve had no drama all year with these girls. Our team is a family.”
Mildred held off Salado, 5-4, Saturday’s opener to force a third game. Salado won the initial game of the series 8-3 Friday night.
Salado (22-6) appeared dead in the water as Mildred scored in all but one inning to build a 6-1 lead going into the seventh inning and the outcome seemed inevitable.
However, a one-out rally with some help from Mildred kept Salado’s faint hopes alive. Josie Norman reached when Mildred (25-8) center fielder Abbie Burnham dropped a fly ball. Reagan Best was hit by a pitch and CeCe Cantu dropped a flare into shallow center to load the bases. Norman scored when Malory Schattle was hit by a pitch from starter Joanna Tapley.
That kept the bases full for Hicks, normally a pull hitter. She drove the first pitch from Tapley over the right-field fence for a game-tying grand slam.
“Coach Craddick just told me to look for my pitch and he gave me the green light,” said the junior third baseman/pitcher. “She threw a curve on the outside part of the plate and I just met and sent it to right field. That’s the only (homer) I’ve ever hit to right. That’s very unusual.”
Salado had an opportunity to go ahead as Jenna Franz singled past second base. She stole second and went to third on a wild pitch as Morgan Hill walked with two outs off reliever Olivia Farmer. Farmer retired Kristen Oaks on a tapper to first to escape and leave the game tied 6-6.
Hicks, who had taken over in the circle for the starter Hill in the fourth, had the unenviable task of trying shut down Mildred after her grand slam.
“When I went back to the field I just told myself that I can’t take (the home run) to the mound,” she said. “I threw a ball and they just got a hit.”
Hicks got Tapley to fly out to open the frame, but McCreary singled through the left side of the infield and found herself at second after a throwing error. Pritchett followed by taking a 1-0 pitch into the right-center to drive in McCreary to end it.
Salado had threatened to score on occasion earlier, but only one run from the third inning. Best was hit with a pitch and Schattle singled her home to make it 2-1 at the time.
Mildred outhit Salado 10-5 and took advantage of four errors.
“We came into the games thinking these would not be our last games,” said Best, a junior left fielder. “We were too hard on ourselves after the first loss and some were upset. We just tried to give it all we had and we just got beat.”
In the opener, Salado was unable to maintain the 2-0 lead it established to complete a series sweep.
The offensive combination of Best and Hicks put the Lady Eagles up with single runs in the first and third innings. Best led off the first with a hustling double and Hicks tripled home courtesy-runner Rachel Jordan.
That scenario was repeated in the third with Best leading off with an infield single. Hicks singled her home with a two-out shot to right.
Mildred took the lead with three runs in the top of the fifth. Doubles by Maddie Moore and Tapley along with three Salado errors gave Mildred a 4-2 advantage.
Salado threatened to tie and take the lead in the seventh. Cantu and Schattle had back-to-back base hits and Franz later delivered an RBI single to drive in Schattle to cut it to 5-4. Tapley, who started for Mildred and shuttled back and forth with Aubyn Turner in the circle, returned to retire pinch-hitter Cheyenne Vaca to preserve the win.
Hicks went four innings Salado was relieved by Franz in the fifth, who in turn was relieved by Morgan Hill in the sixth. Franz took the loss.
“You can’t ask for anything better than this group of girls,” Craddick said. “They mean so much to me.”