TEMPLE — Florence has been playing high school softball for more than a decade, but it wasn’t until Monday that the school clinched its first-ever trip to the playoffs.
For their effort the Lady Buffs drew District 21-2A champion Crawford, the top ranked team in the Texas Girls Coaches Association and 2012 Class 2A state champ.
But the Lady Buffs gave the favorites all they could handle.
Behind two RBIs from Samantha Vaughan and eight strikeouts from ace Emily Gray, the Lady Buffs came up just short in a 5-2 loss to Crawford in Game 1 of the best-of-three bi-district playoff series on Thursday at the Danny Scott Sports Complex.
“I think that the pressure’s on them because they’re the hunted and we weren’t supposed to be here,” Florence head coach Brett Gola said. “We kind of introduced ourselves to 2A tonight.”
The Lady Buffs (12-14) try to stave off elimination in Game 2 today at Moody High School (11862 S. Lone Star Pkwy). Game 2 begins at 6 p.m. and Game 3, if necessary, follows Game 2.
Gray allowed five earned runs on five hits in her first postseason start while Mackenzie Futrell went 2 for 4 with a double and a run scored, and Clarissa Carranco went 2 for 3.
Behind 3-1 heading into the bottom of the sixth, Florence had a golden opportunity to take the lead when singles by Gray and Carranco put runners on the corners with no outs.
Vaughan scored Gray on an RBI single to right to cut Crawford’s lead to 3-2 and Courtney Culp gave the raucous Florence student section more to cheer about when she reached on an error to load the bases with no outs.
But that’s when Crawford (25-0) showed it’s veteran prowess. Lady Pirates starter Carrigan Chambers got the next two batters to ground into a double play and strike out swinging.
“They’re a good, fundamentally sound ball club and if you hit a ball right at somebody, they’re going to be able to make a play,” Gola said. “If that ball’s two feet one way or the other, we’re talking about a 4-3 lead instead of a double play.”
Crawford added insurance runs on RBIs by Jessica Tomchession and Tori Phillips in the top of the seventh and closed out the game.
Florence fell behind by a run after a half inning, but showed it’s fight after Vaughan responded with a fielder’s choice that scored Futrell to tie the game up at a run apiece after a full inning.
Cheyenne Lynch put the Lady Pirates ahead for good with a solo homer to right-center field in the top of the fourth.
Despite the loss, Gola said the Lady Buffs learned a lot from their first playoff game.
“They played well beyond their years,” Gola said. “They didn’t get flustered, even when they got those last couple of runs, we still believed we had a chance and that has a lot to do with the way they compete.”