SALADO — The first inning did not end the game, but both teams felt it did.
In a battle for sole possession of second place in the District 19-4A standings, state-ranked squads Salado and Lampasas each entered the contest with issues.
The No. 12 Lady Eagles recently lost consecutive games for the first time this season and narrowly defeated Llano 8-6 on Friday, while the No. 24 Lady Badgers stepped onto the diamond struggling to find confidence, according to first-year head coach Drew Cleavinger.
Tuesday’s opening inning, however, quieted Salado’s concerns while compounding Lampasas’.
Piper Randolph’s leadoff single in the bottom of the first inning turned into the first run of the night for the Lady Eagles, igniting the team and propelling Salado to a 7-2 victory.
While the hit provided a cushion on the scoreboard, its impact was much greater.
“Once we scored that first run,” Salado head coach Kory Craddick said, “you could just really see it in the girls’ body language that they felt like everything was all right and they could do this.
“That was the molehill they finally needed to get over.”
The Lady Badgers’ dugout experienced a polar opposite reaction going into the second inning after a pair of early errors helped the Lady Eagles build a 2-0 lead.
“We made one error,” Cleavinger said, “and we just shut down.
“That one mishap got them to thinking that we were going to fall apart, and that mentality is never good.”
Lampasas (18-9-1, 5-3) rebounded in the second inning as senior catcher Kloe Corbin reached base on a single before sister Kamri Corbin sent her across home plate.
But Salado’s cushion quickly swelled.
In the bottom of the third inning, designated player Marissa Gonzalez, a freshman, connected on a RBI-single, scoring teammate Jenna Calder before Christin Wilson’s first of two runs in the game pushed the lead to 4-1 moments later.
Then, in the fifth inning, Gonzalez’s second RBI highlighted a three-run outburst, giving the Lady Eagles a 7-1 advantage.
“I’ve been struggling lately,” Gonzalez said, “so to just get everything out of my mind and just put the ball in play felt great.”
The Lady Badgers’ final run came with one out remaining in the game as third baseman Monica Garza’s single scored Kamri Corbin, who reached base on a stand-up double to the left-field wall.
Gonzalez was 2 for 2 offensively, and Wilson was 3 for 3 with a RBI as Salado (20-5, 6-2) produced eight hits, while Lampasas finished with five hits and five errors.
Bailey Tindell earned the pitching victory, throwing three strikeouts.
With the win, the Lady Eagles capture the season series and earn a tiebreaker against Lampasas, and although it is an advantage, Craddick knows it can quickly be erased.
“It’s still a tight race,” he said, “and if we lose to Taylor again, we could easily all three be tied. So, we can’t have any more blunders.
“We have to take care of business against every team.”