PROSPER — It was a frustrating finish because the bats had carried the Lady Yellow Jackets to this point and they weren’t the team across the diamond celebrating an historic achievement.
It was frustrating because in both games against Frisco Reedy, Denison was in position but during those key moments it did not work out.
For a group that will be returning more than two-thirds of the starting lineup, that frustration can serve as fuel for the future — which is what the Lady Jackets face after Frisco Reedy defeated Denison, 12-2, in six innings to sweep a Class 5A Region II quarterfinal on Saturday afternoon.
Reedy (22-7) will face Hallsville (33-3), which swept its series against Sulphur Springs, in the region semifinals this week. It is the first trip to the fourth round for the Lady Lions, who had never won a playoff game in their four-year existence before this spring.
Denison (21-13) was also trying to make history by reaching the region semis. The Lady Jackets were forced to settle for matching the best postseason run for the program, tying the 2006 and 1997 teams. Denison did have its first 20-win campaign ever, breaking the old mark of 19 set in 2006.
“We told the seniors thank you for everything you’ve done,” head coach Jeremy Green said about Shayla Love, Haley Earnhart and Hailey Jaresh. “The ones coming back have it really hard. No one expected us to make the playoffs. No one expected us to win the first round. No one expected us to win the second round. Let this be the start of a legacy. It has to start somewhere and this can be that for teams to come.”
It was an huge turnaround after Denison won just four games last spring and was last in the district standings. They rose up to earn the third seed and win a playoff contest for the first time in 13 years.
Despite the lopsided final, the Lady Jackets had their chances to keep pace with Reedy’s potent bats. Denison left eight runners on base, four of them at third, and had another three thrown out on the bases.
“Every time we had something going, it didn’t go our way. Sometimes it just isn’t your day,” Green said. “We didn’t play well at times, got away from the things we do well that got us to this point.”
Micaela Wark’s two-run homer to left in the sixth put the exclamation point on the Lady Lions’ sweep. Reedy added two more runs to enact the run-rule.
Denison left a pair on base in the fifth and ran itself out of a bigger inning. Elizabeth Linwood walked and Love was hit by a pitch but Linwood was doubled off second on a popout to second. Hannah Grinspan followed with a hit to left-center before Jaci Garvin’s drive to center was caught on the warning track.
Reedy tacked on a pair of runs in the fifth on a two-out, two-run RBI single by Maddie Treutlein. With one out, Maggie Cammack walked and Ashlyn McVeigh singled. A force at third eventually led to the trail two runners in scoring position before Treutlein made it 8-2.
Haley Earnhart had a sacrifice fly to right in the fourth for Denison. Garvin walked, Madison Carter singled to center and Keanu Hall got down a two-strike bunt to move them up. It was the third inning to that point the Lady Jackets left a runner at third, hampering the comeback attempt.
Maia Wark manufactured a run after a two-out single up the middle. She stole second and the throw went into center, allowing her to come all the way around and give Reedy a 6-1 lead.
“That’s what good hitting teams do,” Green said. “Whenever there’s a mistake, they took advantage of it.”
Denison got on the board in the bottom of the third when Ashlinn Hamilton tripled to the right-center gap and scored on Love’s safety squeeze with one out. Jewel Hiberd reached on an error that put her at second but Micaela Wark snagged a line drive back up the middle off Grinspan’s bat to end the frame.
Reedy took a 5-0 advantage in the third when Micaela Wark doubled to left, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Emily Eaton’s groundout to short. The Lady Lions left a pair in scoring position after two walks and a wild pitch when second baseman Grinspan snared a liner to end the inning.
The Lady Jackets missed a scoring chance in the second when Garvin led off the frame with a single and tried to advance to third on Madison Carter’s hit up the middle. McVeigh threw her out and after a sacrifice, Carter was stranded at third.
Denison had a chance to immediately respond to the Lady Lions’ opening barrage but came away empty-handed. Hamilton singled to lead off the bottom of the first, Linwood walked and they moved up on a wild pitch. Micaela Wark kept the Lady Jackets off the board with a pair of strikeouts and a pop-up to second.
Reedy jumped in front with four runs in the top of the first as the first five Lady Lions reached base. Treutlein and Toni McInnis singled before Maia Wark’s two-run double into the left-field corner. Micaela Wark followed with an RBI single up the middle, stole second and scored on Ally Ryan’s hit to center.
The Lady Lions opened the series with a 13-7 victory on Friday night, taking a 9-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning.
Denison battled back to make it a 10-6 margin before Reedy scored three times in the bottom of the sixth to pull away.
Grinspan was 2-for-4 with three RBI and scored, Garvin was 2-for-4, drove in a run and scored, Hiberd singled, walked twice and scored twice, Carter walked and scored twice and Earnhart singled and drove in a run for the Lady Jackets.