Gunter rolls past Leonard, clinches playoff spot
GUNTER — There are two big games remaining on the schedule, but the Gunter Lady Tigers weren’t about to be caught looking ahead.
They have been chasing the top of the district standings since dropping the 11-3A opener and while first place has been in their sights, there isn’t any tunnel vision.
“We’ve got to take games one game at a time. I don’t want them to get ahead,” Gunter head coach Leigh Vickery said. “I’ve got a great group of leaders. They do such a great job.”
It would have been easy to focus on the looming showdown with Whitewright Friday and overlook last-place Leonard. Just like next week starts with a game against fifth-place Blue Ridge before the season ends with first-place Bells.
But Gunter wasted little time taking care of business with a 16-1 victory in three innings against Leonard with a step towards what could be a big finish, and at worst a share of the district tile, if Gunter can close out an undefeated second half of 11-3A play.
“We would love it,” Vickery said. “Our kids are working their tails off to try and make it happen.”
Rhyan Pogue threw a one-hitter with seven strikeouts and a walk and was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBI, Hayden Fox was 3-for-3 with three RBI and scored, Taylor Boddie was 2-for-2 with a double, got hit by a pitch, drove in a run and scored three times, Andrea Montes doubled, walked twice, drove in two and scored three times, Makenna Kincheloe singled, walked twice and scored twice and Madi Thigpen drove in two runs for Gunter (16-5, 9-2), which clinched a playoff spot with the win.
It is the second straight postseason berth for the program, which had four straight playoff appearances from 2010-13. Two years ago Gunter reached the region quarterfinals and was looking to build on that when last season was shut down. Seven starters returned this spring and were very motivated.
“When I was interviewing for the job they said they had a good group of kids,” Vickery said about her first season at GHS. “They’re talented. They’re athletic. They’re coachable. They’re hard-working. You can’t ask for anything more.
“I couldn’t be more pleased with how things are going.”
Paiton Sudderth had the lone hit for Leonard (1-12, 0-11).
Gunter nearly batted around twice in the first inning on its way to scoring 11 runs.
The first four Lady Tigers — and 14 of the first 15 — reached to start the game.
Montes walked before three straight singles from Boddie, Fox and Pogue. Fox’s hit to left-center drove in a pair.
Kincheloe walked with one out to load the bases and Thigpen had a two-run single to right-center for a 4-0 advantage.
Shey Menkhoff then had a bunt single, which was the third of the frame, to re-load the bases. Gabi Geisendorff reached on an error which allowed a pair of runs to score and the lineup turned over.
Montes doubled down the third-base line to make it 8-0 and two more runs were on the board after Pogue’s double to left. Fox tried to score right behind Boddie and was thrown out at the plate for the second out.
Olivia Eft had an RBI single to left and two batters later the inning came to an end with 16 trips to the plate.
With two outs in the bottom of the second, Gunter tacked on a pair of runs. Montes walked and scored on Boddie’s double down the left-field line and Fox followed with an infield RBI single.
The run-rule was enacted when Gunter scored three times in the third. Eft opened the inning with a single, stole second and a wild pitch as Kincheloe walked put runners at the corners. Eft raced home on the back end of a double steal and Kincheloe scored on a one-out wild pitch.
“There were a couple of situations, let’s see what we can do,” Vickery said. “This is the time to make sure you can do it. Once you get to the playoffs it’s too late to try something for the first time.”
A pair of errors kept the inning alive and Montes’ groundout to second ended the scoring and the game.
Leonard scored its run in the top of the third. Maci Partridge had a full-count walk with two outs and Sudderth followed with the only hit, a single to right. Partridge went to third and then scored as Gunter tried to get Sudderth going back to first.
The only other base runner for Leonard was when Jacy Doyle reached on a two-out error in the second.