There was a palpable buzz at Old Settlers Park on Thursday night and Sherman made the most of it.
Thanks to a strong pitching effort from Jessica Bridges and opportunistic base running, Sherman opened their playoff run with a 4-1 win over the Azle Lady Hornets in Game 1 of a Class 5A Region I bi-district series.
“When you have a match-up between two great teams, you’re trying to battle,” Sherman head coach Brenda Samuels said. “We capitalized on their errors and that’s what you have to do in a game like this.”
Both teams went down in order in the first inning but the action quickly picked up in the bottom of the second inning after the Lady Bearcats (13-14) loaded the bases.
A dropped third strike and a ball that got away in the infield presented an opportunity for Sherman courtesy runner Jessica Shrum. With everyone moving, Shrum charged her way home for the game’s opening run during the scramble.
The Bearcats added their second run in the bottom of the third inning after Kenna Ferguson walked with the bases loaded.
In the circle Bridges found her rhythm early, retiring nine of the first 10 Lady Hornets she faced.
Azle was able to get a run on the board in the fourth inning on an RBI single by Miranda Longbrake to drive in Logan Graham. Graham had led off the inning with a single and those would mark the only hits of the game for the Lady Hornets.
“She pitched as hard as always,” Samuels said. “She did her job and worked hard and glad for that.”
“I just kept throwing pitches in my spots and stayed focused on my game,” Bridges said. “I just tried to not worry about anything else.”
Bridges helped her own cause in the fifth inning, leading off with one of her two singles on the night. She later came into score on a dropped third strike with Ferguson at the plate. Sherman added another run with a sacrifice bunt from Ashley Boatright.
The Bearcats worked to finish with six hits against Azle pitcher Brooke Ledbetter, who struck out 12 in six innings. That said, Samuels was pleased with how her team found a way to get the job done.
“They’ve learned to read and trust each other,” Samuels said of her team’s development. “When you can trust your teammates, it makes your team that much stronger knowing that everyone can do your job.”
The Lady Bearcats also continued to feed off the energy of their home crowd and credited their presence for making a difference.
“The crowd was great tonight and it pumped us up and kept us going,” Bridges said. “Even when we get down, they’re there to pump us up.”
“Our crowd is loud and we love it,” Samuels said. “It makes us play so much harder to know that there are so many people behind you wanting it.”
Even with the win, Friday presents a new challenge as the Lady Bearcats travels to Azle needing just one more win to advance to the area round.
And after what happened Thursday night, the Lady Bearcats are confident they can get the job done.
“They just need to stay focused and continue to play the way they are,” Samuels said. “I’m hoping we can hit a little better over there but I think we’re in a good spot.”