BELTON — The game ended in a tie, but it felt like a victory.
Representing Belton one final time as part of the Red team, Lady Tigers standouts Avery Drake and Madison Ward saw their team construct an early 10-1 advantage in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Victory Bowl softball game at Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Then, however, the Blue team rallied.
The Blue team earned its first lead of the contest after a four-run eighth inning gave it a 15-14 advantage, but it would not last.
Ward stepped to the plate in to top of the final inning and recorded a single to send the game-tying run across home plate, and the score held as the contest concluded in a 15-15 tie.
But for Drake, watching her longtime teammate’s performance sent her into a celebration.
“I went so crazy,” she said. “I was jumping off the stairs, throwing things and yelling, ‘That’s my best friend!’
“I was so proud of her, because she is always just so clutch.”
Ward was 3 for 3 in the game with two runs scored and a pair of RBIs, but she does not take credit for the outcome.
“It was important for me to deliver,” Ward said, “but it was important for someone to get on before me, so I could score them.
“I was just out there having fun, so I didn’t feel any pressure.”
The Red team started hot as Drake recorded the game’s first run in the opening inning, and the cushion inflated to 3-0 by the end of the second inning.
Drake, who finished with a pair of singles, an RBI and three runs, hit an RBI single in the third inning as part of a three-run outburst that pushed the Red team’s advantage to 6-0. Then, the Blue team scored its first run in the bottom of the third inning, but Sophie Young, of Harker Heights, and Ward scored in the fourth inning, and the Red team’s lead swelled to 10-1.
The Blue team sparked a rally in the bottom of the inning, though, posting six runs before a four-run fifth inning pulled it within a run at 12-11.
“We were going pretty strong at first,” Red team third baseman Jayda Carter, of Copperas Cove, said, “but we got tired.
“Both teams were very competitive, though, and we both wanted to win.”
Thanks in part to an RBI triple from Ward, the Red team pushed its advantage to 14-11 in the sixth inning, and the score held until the eighth inning, when the Blue team claimed its only lead.
Ward ensured it would not last, though, connecting on the game-tying single with two outs.
Carter finished the game with three RBIs and a double, while Young scored a run on a single.
Although everyone hoped to emerge from the contest as winners, Ward feels she left with something equally valuable.
“Avery has been my best friend for a long time,” she said, “and it has been really nice to play with her all these years, so I hate that we’re leaving each other.
“But getting one last game together and just having fun with no worries was really special.”