The playoff welcome was anything but warm.
On a raw, windy night and in the postseason for the first time in five years, the Denison Lady Yellow Jackets went up against anything but your typical fourth-place team.
The Aledo Lady Bearcats showed why, in the time between Denison’s playoff appearances they were one of the premier programs in the state after beating the Lady Jackets, 14-3, in Game 1 of a Class 5A Region I bi-district series at Denison on Wednesday night.
The series shifts to Aledo at 5 p.m. on Saturday with the Lady Bearcats (17-13) trying to sweep Denison (16-12). A third game, if necessary, will immediately follow.
Aledo, which went to the state tournament three straight seasons — winning in 2014 and 2015 before losing to eventual champ Birdville last year in the region quarterfinals — hit three home runs to put Denison on the brink.
“The fact of the matter is they hit more than we did,” Denison head coach Mike Garcia said. “They made contact and it was solid — over the fence and in the gaps.”
The Lady Bearcats fell to fourth after a multi-faceted tie-breaker involving three other teams instead of entering as the second seed out of 6-5A.
District 5-5A champ Denison has to hope it gets the bats going with a sweep needed on Saturday after Hannah Andrews held the Lady Jackets to four hits, two by Olivia Marr.
“We’ve hit the last couple of games. We have hit in practice,” Garcia said. “We’re not going to make excuses. Just gotta get better.”
The Lady Bearcats broke the game open with a five-run fourth inning to build a 9-1 lead. With one out, Lindsey McElroy singled before MyKayla Stroud lined a home run just over the left field wall. Stroud was 5-for-6 with two homers, a double, four RBI and three runs.
Megan Reynolds reached on an error before Brynn Hellman’s two-out triple to left. Then Sydney Marris hit a sinking liner to center that Yvette Moreno made a diving try on but couldn’t grab for the final out and Marris came all the way around, scoring on a high throw to the plate to make it 9-1.
Aledo jumped right to the lead in the top of the first when Reynolds hit a pitch back up the middle to drive in two runs. Jaydan Hunt worked out of further trouble to keep the deficit at two.
The Lady Jackets got one of the runs back in the bottom of the inning on Hunt’s RBI double down the right-field line. She pulled a pitch inside first base to score Kayla Daugherty.
Denison ran into some trouble on the bases when Kaylee Walters was hit by a pitch to open the game and took second on a passed ball. When Daugherty grounded back to Andrews, Walters was caught in a rundown and Daugherty stayed anchored to first.
A pair of wild pitches pushed her over to third before Hunt delivered.
But the Lady Bearcats quickly held a 4-1 advantage the next half inning as McElroy had a two-run homer to left with one out following Caden Cunningham’s leadoff double.
Then in the fourth came the barrage that turned the game in Aledo’s favor.
Marr opened the fifth with a single up the middle, went to second on a passed ball, third on a wild pitch and then scored with two outs after drawing a pickoff throw and the relay back to the plate went to the backstop.
Marr had a one-out double to left center in the sixth and went to third on a wild pitch. Danielle Sullivan walked and Moreno reached on a two-out error to score Marr and make it 10-3.
Stroud walloped her second homer of the game to left with one out in the fifth. After Reynolds walked, Garcia made a pitching change and brought in Hailey Jaresh. She walked the first two batters she faced before getting a pop-out and grounder to third to end the threat.
Aledo loaded the bases again in the sixth before Jaresh held the Lady Bearcats scoreless despite the situation.
Cunningham had an RBI single in the seventh, Marris scored on an error and Stroud had a two-run double to left to close out Aledo’s scoring.
“It’s going to be a better game Saturday,” Garcia said. “We’ll be ready to go.”