HARKER HEIGHTS — Gatesville got a leadoff infield single to start Friday’s game, with Lauren Nichols working her way to third base before scoring on a second infield single.

Harker Heights got an infield single to start the bottom of the first inning, tying the game and eventually loading the bases with a chance to break things open early.

It didn’t happen — the Hornets got out of the jam, received a top-notch performance from starter Sarah Ridling and blew things open in the fifth for an 11-1 win at Harker Heights.

“There’s no other word, she was very keyed up tonight,” Gatesville assistant coach Alan Weihausen said of Ridling, who struck out nine and allowed just three hits. “And it took her that inning — the defense got her out of a jam. But from that point on, she was in absolute cruise control. “This is the best game she has pitched this whole year.”

Heights (5-12) missed a big chance in that first inning. Britney Hawkins’ one-out single scored Ashlyn Osborne and Harley Fine and Deanna Turck followed with back-to-back walks, loading the bases for Brianna Smith, who worked a 2-2 count before Gatesville starter Sarah Ridling struck her out.

“We probably should have moved the ball a little bit better than what we did,” Heights head coach Jaime Stephens said. “Sometimes we were trying a little bit too hard.”

Ridling allowed a leadoff Ashley Hayden bunt single to start the second inning, but left her standing at third base as Ridling retired the next 14 batters she faced. Fine broke the streak with a two-out, sixth-inning walk, but Ridling retired the next four seal the win.

“The first inning is always the shakiest — just to get it going,” Ridling said. “Then after the first one, you get the rhythm and then you’re in the game ... I don’t hear anything around me. I’m just focused on the glove.”

Gatesville, which stranded two runners in the second inning and another in the fourth, didn’t waste its chance in the fifth.

Nichols reached between two flyouts, moving to second base on a wild pitch. Paige Chambers reached on an error, which brought Nichols around for the 2-1 lead. Amber Colson them singled to left field before Allison Aslin cleared the bases, hitting the second pitch she saw over the wall in left and put the Hornets up 5-1.

“I looked up when I was rounding first and I saw it going out,” said Aslin, adding it was her first home run ever. “It was the most amazing feeling — it was so exciting and I was just glad I could help my teammates out. “It was just one hit after another after that, and I think it really set the tone after that for the rest of the game.”

Gatesville wasn’t done with its two-out rally. Riley Lathem, Jaycee Summers and Skye Truss reached on two singles and an error, with Truss and Megan Chambers both knocking in runs to chase Heights starter Christina Hagey.

Osborne came in to pitch, but Gatesville added another run — this one on an errant throw — to push their lead to seven runs.

“Honestly, I think (Ridling’s) confidence transferred to our offense and it really turned on our bats,” Weihausen said. “You can’t have one without the other. Our offense decided ‘We’re going to play for her defense tonight.’”


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