SADLER — The Gunter Lady Tigers showed up for a softball game and a track meet broke out.
The defending district champs used their legs as much as their bats. Bunts turned into hits. Grounders turned into infield singles. Stolen bases set up rallies and multiple runners scored from second.
It all added up to a 10-1 victory against S&S in the 9-3A opener.
“Every team has its own strengths and weaknesses and this team is no different — it has a lot of speed,” Gunter head coach Leigh Anne Budd said. “We need to take advantage of that with this group.”
Taylor Boddie was 3-for-5 with two RBI, two steals and scored, Nancy Castorena was 2-for-3 and scored twice, Hayden Fox was 2-for-3 with two walks, scored three times and drove in a run and Rhyan Pogue scattered five hits and three walks while striking out 14 and had an RBI double and walked twice for Gunter (4-6, 1-0).
Presley Wilson was 2-for-3 and scored and Piper Dickeson singled, walked and drove in a run for S&S (10-5, 0-1).
Despite returning just three starters and entering 9-3A play with a losing record, Gunter was ready to wipe the slate clean and build on the positives from the first few weeks of the season.
“That was the talk and the goal of the year, to defend that district title,” Budd said. “You always want to finish first.”
Pogue figures to play a large role if that is to happen. The sophomore transfer from Coppell steps into the circle and into the void left behind by Elizabeth Schroeter, who was the District MVP and an honorable mention all-state pick durign a senior year when the Lady Tigers went 26-7, including a perfect 12-0 against 9-3A foes, with their first playoff appearance in six years and first region quarterfinal trip since 2012.
“It’s her and I figuring each other out and Hayden and her figuring each other out,” Budd said. “The expectations are high for her but she’s ready for that challenge.”
Holding a 4-0 lead after five innings, the Lady Tigers broke things open with a five-run sixth.
“I feel like we needed to stick to the plan,” Budd said. “We’re not the power-hitting team we were last year.”
Gabi Geisendorff bunted for a hit, stole second and with one out scored on Fox’s single up the middle. Boddie followed with a single to left before Pogue’s RBI double to center made it 6-0.
Andrea Montes drove in a run with a bunt single and Olivia Eft capped the outburst with a two-run single to left.
The Lady Rams avoided the shutout in the sixth and almost had a bigger inning. Wilson singled and went to second on an error before Lauren Jaresh reached on a fielder’s choice when Pogue tried for the out on the lead runner. Dickeson followed with a hit to right center and S&S was on the board.
Pogue was a pitch away from loading the bases with no outs but struck out Cate Sloan in a 3-2 count on the way to striking out the side — it was one of her five innings with multiple punchouts.
Gunter closed out the scoring on Sarah Beth Jackson’s one-out RBI single to left in the top of the seventh.
In the fourth, the Lady Tigers took a 4-0 lead after Castorena reached on a bunt single and came all the way around to score when the throw went down the right-field line and Boddie’s infield single to short plated Jackson, who was in scoring position following an infield single and stolen base.
Gunter finished with six hits that did not reach the outfield and nine stolen bases.
S&S left runners at the corners in the third when it was down 2-0.
The Lady Tigers used a two-out rally for that two-run advantage in the second. Fox doubled to center, moved up on a wild pitch and scored on Boddie’s infield single to third.
S&S had a chance to get on the board in the bottom of the inning. Jaresh singled to left and Dickeson followed with a walk. But Pogue retired the next three Lady Rams on strikeouts and stranded the pair in scoring position after a passed ball.
Gunter opened the scoring in the first when the Lady Tigers loaded the bases on walks by Fox, Pogue and Montes before Nicole Leach was hit by a two-out pitch to force in a run. Jaresh was able to limit the damage there with her third strikeout of the inning. She finished the night with 12.