JUSTIN — It was a story of patience for the Bells Lady Panthers on Friday night at Justin Northwest.
The defending Class 2A state champions were locked in a pitcher’s duel with Mart through the first five innings. But it was Bells pitcher Cheyenne Floyd who made sure her team’s fortunes would change.
With the bases loaded, Floyd drove in two runs on a liner to left field and scored on the same play thanks to two Mart errors. It was the spark that Bells needed as it pulled away with a 9-1 victory in the area round match-up. The Lady Panthers (21-6) advance to the regional quarterfinals this week against Honey Grove.
“We’ve talked all year about never giving up and coming up and getting out in front of the start,” Bells head coach Kristina Stephens. “If we can’t do that, you have to keep going. They never gave up and just were confident the whole way to get it done.”
Mart got out in front of Bells early in the bottom of the first inning as catcher Deazhia Medlock lined a triple into center field. A throwing error would lead to Medlock coming around to score the game’s opening run.
Meanwhile, Mart pitcher Kennedy Parker made things difficult for Bells early on. The freshman finished with nine strikeouts and only allowed one hit through the first five innings — a bloop single from Hali Williams in the third inning.
“We had to be more patient at the plate,” Stephens said. “We were swinging at too many pitches up and out and once we adjusted, we were able to take advantage of it.”
Floyd was doing her part to keep Bells within striking distance. The sophomore struck out 13, gave up just two hits and had retired 10 straight Mart batters to keep the lineup in check.
“Cheyenne is a fighter and will put up a fight in any situation,” Stephens said. “She’s going to give everything she has. You want her in those tight situations because of her mentality.”
As the sixth inning rolled around, Bells adjusted and started holding back at the plate. The patience was rewarded as the first three batters — Chesney Blount, Jalen Hartline and Gabby Smith — all drew walks. That set up the big moment for Floyd, who broke through for the moment of the game in the sixth.
“I knew that our bats would come up if we just kept battling,”Floyd said on her game-changing hit. “I just stepped up to the plate and tried to make something happen.”
Bells was still not done in the sixth. Two batters after Floyd, Bella Smith lined a hard triple to right field and would come into score on a passed ball.
Bells added four insurance runs in the top of the seventh, two on an RBI single from Bella Smith and two more from Ashley Sloan. Those two runs scored after Sloan beat out a throw to first base.
As for Floyd, she gave up only one hit in the sixth and put the finishing touches on the win in the seventh by striking out the side.