WACO — Jenna Kuligowski hit a two-run double to break a 2-2 tie in the top of the sixth inning and the China Spring Lady Cougars defeated Salado 4-2 on Saturday to sweep their Class 4A area-round series.
After dropping the series opener 4-3 on Thursday, Salado (21-6) needed two wins Saturday to keep its historic season going.
“Well, it hurts to see us lose like this, but sometimes it doesn’t go our way and that’s life,” Lady Eagles head coach Ashton Cooper said. “We knew they were a good team and we knew we were going to have to hit the ball. We just didn’t make the adjustments that we needed to and they did.”
Salado pitcher Bailey Tindell shared the frustration.
“I think we should be going further than this but it just didn’t happen in our favor tonight.”
Tindell pitched all seven innings for Salado with five strikeouts and two walks.
China Spring grabbed an early lead with a run in the top of the first inning.
The Lady Eagles answered in the bottom of the second.
Chris Wilson, who was 2 for 3, led off the inning by launching a ball into left-center field all the way to the wall for a double. She was replaced at second base with courtesy runner Abbie James.
James tagged up on a fly ball to left field by Rylee Oborski and advanced to third base, sliding just underneath the tag.
Erin Faske then drew a walk off China Spring pitcher Elisabeth Paul, giving Salado runners at the corners.
While Reese Preston was batting, Lady Cougar catcher Emma Tatsch tried to pick off James at third, but threw the ball out of reach of third baseman Maggie Chaffin.
James dove back to third to beat the tag, but as the ball rolled into left field she got up and raced home to tie the game at 1 while Faske advanced all the way to third.
China Spring loaded the bases with two out in the top of the third but came up empty thanks to a stellar defensive play at first by Wilson, who practically did the splits while taking a throw for the final out.
The Lady Eagles took a 2-1 lead in the third inning with an RBI single from Wilson to bring home Piper Randolph.
Paul tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the fifth with a home run.
In her first year as head coach, Cooper led the Lady Eagles program to its first district championship ever.
There may be more to come. The roster is comprised of 13 freshmen and sophomores, and one junior.
The Lady Eagles lose just two seniors, including Tindell, who will play at Lamar University next year.
“I know it hurts these young kids and I know it hurts my three upperclassmen, but as a young team I think we’ll be able to remember this feeling,” Cooper said.
“Maybe next year in the offseason we’ll work hard and remember this feeling that first day of practice and build off of it.”
Tindell said this season with the Lady Eagles is one she’ll never forget.
“I love every single one of them,” she said. "They all have great attitudes. When it comes to games and practices, they work hard.
“I just couldn’t ask for a better group.”