Small ball carries Whitewright past Grand Saline in Game 1

Jason Della Rosa
Herald Democrat
Whitewright's Makayla Alexander scores during the Lady Tigers' victory over Grand Saline to start a bi-district series at Community.

NEVADA — The pressure was almost equal for the senior at the plate and the freshman on the bases. With a chance to win the game, the duo delivered to cap Whitewright's rally where the ball never traveled a combined 15 feet during the two biggest at-bats.

The Lady Tigers played the short game to perfection and Laura Taylor's squeeze plated Regan Eldredge with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning as Whitewright pulled out a 4-3 victory over Grand Saline to open a Class 3A Region II bi-district series at Community.

"I put on the suicide squeeze all the way. It was a straight steal of home with the bunt on," Whitewright head coach Zach Gillen said. "She got the bunt down exactly like she had to. We have speed in the lineup. We have the ability to bunt. In that moment you have to have confidence in kids to execute."

The Lady Tigers (22-4) will look to sweep in Game 2 at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Community. Grand Saline (18-9) will try to force a deciding third contest, which would immediately follow.

Whitewright, which hadn't earned a playoff win since 2015, was six outs away from a loss after Grand Saline jumped in front. It didn't help that senior shortstop Kyleigh Clements injured her shoulder in the second-to-last district game and will be out for the rest of the season. Eldredge took over at her spot in the field, Kiera Anderson moved into the batting order and both played key roles in the victory.

Abreanna Smith walked to open the eighth against Kinlee Rumfield before Eldredge, who was the flex in the batting order, came on to run. She immediately stole second and went to third when Gracie Robinson beat out a bunt but was then called out after reversing course after the ball had entered in the circle.

Taylor followed with a bunt back to Rumfield but a hard-charging Eldredge slid ahead of the tag with the winning run.

Grand Saline had left runners at the corners in the top of the eighth, the inning being extended by a two-out error.

Three batters into their last chance to tie the game the Lady Tigers pulled even. Robinson boomed a double off the left-center wall and Taylor was hit by a pitch.

Anderson, who before this week hadn't had an at-bat in 23 days, bunted and third baseman Alyssa Lovett threw a one-hopper past first base as Whitewright tied the game in the seventh.

"All 12 fill some kind of role," Gillen said. "When her number got called, she was ready."

Makayla Alexander bounced back to Rumfield and courtesy runner Ashton Long advanced to third with the winning run. Natalie Alexander followed with a bunt and Long got caught in a rundown but stayed in it long enough to get back to third safety and let Alexander advance to second.

Madie Rohre was intentionally walked with first base open and Rumfield sent the game to extra innings by striking out Hayden Thompson and getting Kiley Anderson to fly out to center.

The Lady Indians were unable to add to their lead in the seventh when Grand Saline stranded a runner in scoring position.

Thompson, who came on in relief of Rohre to start the sixth inning, quelled Grand Saline’s two-out attempt to extend its lead. Hailey Darby walked and Lovett reached on an infield single behind second base before Thompson induced a groundout to second to keep it a two-run deficit.

"The game wasn't over. Early on we played tense We were worried about making mistakes and it led to mistakes," Gillen said. "They let all that go and played softball like we know we can."

Whitewright put the tying run on base in the bottom of the fifth put was unable to get closer. Taylor singled but was thrown out trying to steal second. With two outs, Makayla Alexander singled past second and then Natalie Alexander walked before Rohre popped out.

Grand Saline broke the one-all tie in the top of the fifth. Lovett was hit by a pitch to begin the inning and a one-out error on a sacrifice by Sarah Marshall put another runner on. A wild pitch moved both over and Maddy Bolin followed with an RBI groundout to third base as Lovett beat the throw from first to the plate.

Rumfield made it a 3-1 advantage with a single to left.

The Lady Tigers were on the verge of retaking the lead in the bottom of the second but a line drive to third by Kiera Anderson led to an inning-ending double play after Whitewright put runners in scoring position.

Grand Saline tied the game at one in the top of the second. Addi Fisher singled to right and an error on the play sent her to second. She scored on a two-out error.

Whitewright took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Makayla Alexander reach on an error to open the inning and was sacrificed to second by Natalie Alexander. Rohre hit a chopper past second baseman Bekah Harrington and the Lady Tigers had both runners in scoring position.

Thompson hit a sacrifice fly near the right-field line to put Whitewright in front.

Bi-district

Class 3A Region II

At Community

Game 1

Whitewright                  4

Grand Saline                3