GATESVILLE — After a back-and-forth battle, Gatesville pulled out a 6-5 victory against Fairfield, rallying in the bottom of the sixth inning to take game one of the Class 4A first-round playoff series Thursday night.
“I can’t even explain it,” Hornets starting pitcher Chesney Smith said. “It was awesome.”
The Lady Eagles have made regular appearances in the playoffs, but this is the Hornets’ first postseason game since 2015.
“It was a battle,” Gatesville head coach Jaime Villarial said, “but we knew that coming in.
“We talk about having good pitching and having good defense, that’s who we are. If we throw strikes, we’re going to be in the game.”
Fairfield got on the scoreboard in the top of the first. Hornets catcher Kennedy Berry chased down a ball that had rolled toward the Lady Eagles’ dugout while Margo Measles was on deck and appeared to walk in the way of the play being fielded.
The run counted, but Gatesville quickly evened the score in its first at bat.
Starting pitcher Chesney Smith knocked the ball just out of reach over third baseman Bailey Jones for an RBI single to bring home Amiah Lamar.
The Hornets took the lead in the bottom of the second inning behind a sacrifice grounder to left field from Erin Necessary.
Lady Eagles’ Kealie House overthrew to Bailey Jones at third base from first, which allowed Jaycee Bragewitz to make it home and put Gatesville ahead 2-1.
Haley Nichols dove to make the catch as the ball bounced up the middle and tossed it to Necessary, who turned it to Bragewitz for a double play.
The Lady Eagles took back the lead with back-to-back home runs before Smith got the final out of the inning.
Fairfield added another run in the top of the fifth for a 4-2 lead, but as the sun began to set over the field, the Hornets’ bats started to wake up once more.
Errors added up in the sixth inning for the Lady Eagles, starting with second baseman Katie Henrichs. She dropped the ball while trying to tag out Haley Nichols, which allowed Smith to get on base.
Maci Matthews was up next for Gatesville and grounded one into left field. It bounced just out of reach of Lauren Adcock for a base hit that brought the Hornets within one run.
The Lady Eagles made a pitching change, but it wasn’t enough to slow down Gatesville as Bragewitz sent one flying into deep left field for a two-run double.
“I knew that I had to put it in play so they could score,” Bragewitz said. “I just focused. I just hit the ball. And that’s what happened.”
The Hornets took back the lead, 5-4.
Hornets fans cheered as Rachel Dunahou was up next and popped one into right field all the way to the wall for a single that put runners on the corners.
Kendall Villagrana found a hole in right field to drop one in for an RBI single that gave the Hornets a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Lady Eagles made yet another pitching change before they were able to sit the Hornets and leave two runners in scoring position.
Fairfield brought in a run inthe top of the seventh, and Villarrial took a trip to the mound to talk with his team.
“We went over our scenarios really quick and what we were going to do,” he said. “This is what it’s all about, Texas high school playoff softball.”
With one runner at third, House stepped up to the plate once more. She swung on the first pitch and popped the ball into left field, where Kendall Villagrana was there to make the catch.
Villagrana quickly got the ball to Smith, who was waiting between third and home to turn the play. Smith threw the ball to Berry, waiting at home plate.
Banner Moniro slid in trying to tie the game for Fairfield, but as the dirt cleared, she was called out and the Hornets crowd went wild.
“That last play is kind of who we are,” Villarrial said. “It don’t get better than that.
“It’s a lot of fun right there.”
Winning in this fashion in front of a home crowd means a lot to Bragewitz.
“When you get that last out and everyone is jumping and cheering,” she said, “it’s overwhelming.
“But it’s a good time.”
“To represent this school and this community with a win like that is a lot of fun,” Villarrial added.
Smith pitched all seven innings, recorded six strikeouts and went 2 for 3 at the plate. Bragewitz also went 2 for 3 with a single to start the bottom of the second inning.
Game 2 of the bi-district series is today at Fairfield at 4:30 p.m. If the Hornets win, they will move on to the area round of the playoffs next week.
A split leads to Game 3 on Saturday at Waco ISD Sports Complex at 10 a.m.
Until then, the Hornets will enjoy their victory over a team that is used to making deep runs in the playoffs.
“That’s a statement win and, really, that’s a milestone win.” Villarrial said, “and that’s something we can take on to tomorrow as we try and get that second win.”