AZLE — The Sherman softball team had a pair of chances to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
After taking Game 1 of the Class 5A Region I bi-district series on Thursday, the Lady Bearcats fell 16-2 in five innings in Game 2 and 3-0 in Game 3 against Azle on Friday night.
It wasn’t the ending that head coach Brenda Samuels had hoped for.
“We kept working but the chips didn’t fall on our side,” Samuels said. “There’s nothing to be upset about. They should be proud of themselves for working hard. We did the best that we could but it just didn’t work out for us.”
Azle jumped out early on Sherman (13-16) in the first game. After a scoreless first inning, the Lady Hornet bats came to life over the next two innings, scoring 10 runs on nine hits in the second inning and two more in the third.
Sherman would get on the board with two runs in the fourth inning — one on a sacrifice bunt from Ashley Boatright and later on an RBI single from Emma Jones. But the Lady Hornets tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the inning and put Game 2 in the books in five innings.
The deciding game turned into a pitcher’s duel with Sherman pitcher Jessica Bridges and Azle pitcher Brooke Ledbetter battling it out and working out of some tough spots early.
Ledbetter worked out of a bases loaded jam in the first inning while Bridges did the same in the bottom of the second.
The Lady Bearcats were able to get runners on in the next three innings and finished with seven hits in Game 3. But thanks in part to some strong defensive play, Sherman couldn’t find a way to break through.
The deadlock was broken in the bottom of the fifth inning thanks to Azle’s Logan Graham. The senior lined a double into the left center field gap to drive in the first two runs.
The Lady Hornets added another run on an RBI double from Abigail Bradley.
Bridges — who came in relief of Kenna Ferguson in the first game — struck out eight and walked four on 113 pitches in the series finale.
“I think Jessica pitched well,” Samuels, “I know she had a few more walks than she typically does and things didn’t work out the way but they did well by just continuing to battle.”
It wasn’t the ending that Lady Bearcats were hoping for but Samuels is hopeful that her team can continue to build even more for next year after consecutive playoff appearances.
“We have to have the same goals,” Samuels said. “We’re going to be in a tough district next year and we have to replace two players (Jill Dixon and Ariel Garcia) who have been wonderful for us. But I think they can carry what we’ve built into next year and we’ll be looking good.”
Azle got on the board in the second inning of Game 2. After loading the bases, Azle second baseman Nichole Pederson drove in two runs on an RBI single. Brie Michelli and Abigail Bradley would each add two runs in their plate appearances off an RBI double and on an error by Sherman.
The Lady Hornets added four more runs in the inning thanks to an RBI double from Miranda Longbrake and RBI singles from Shelby Bradley and Pederson.
Sherman got its first hit of the game on a double from Ferguson into the left-field corner but was unable to convert on the scoring chance.
Azle added two more runs in the third off of two singles by Graham and later by Paige Anderson.
Graham and Longbrake each chipped in RBI singles in the fourth inning as well. Graham finished 2-for-3 while Longbrake finished 3-for-4 with four runs batted in.