Until the bottom of the fourth inning, the season’s second match between Melissa and Anna on March 31 had the look of the first: A gritty 1-0 contest that had “potential upset” by the Lady Coyotes written all over it. But that’s when Melissa’s Lady Cardinals struck for five runs and went on to post an 8-1 win. With that win, the Lady Cards (5-1) moved into sole possession of first place in District 11-4A, one victory away from clinching a playoff spot, while Anna (0-6) still searches for its first district win.

“It just goes back to the same thing,” Lady Coyotes head coach Lindsey Lacy said. “It’s the little stuff. That game should’ve been a 2-1 game. Our pitchers walked too many people, then (Melissa) got the timely hit and we didn’t make the easy play to get out of the inning. We gave up that one really big inning and that’s really what killed us. We also left the bases loaded, runners on second and third, and we got a lead-off runner to third in the first inning — didn’t score. So it’s just … the story of the year.”

“It was tight early,” Melissa head coach Eric Rodgers said, adding that his hitters had to adjust a bit at the plate. “What we’ve been seeing is a little bit faster, so the girls get used to that. We probably had the pitching machine up a little bit faster yesterday too. … It happens a lot. You get up on that front foot, you start popping up. We started coming through the second go ‘round. We started waiting, sitting back and getting the hits we needed. The dugout was rockin’ and we had a nice group of kids (fans) out here tonight helping us out as well.”

“They had a good plan,” Rodgers said. “They had different plans for different players. (My batters) were coming back to the dugout saying different things, so we were trying to adjust.”

Alexis Pevehouse worked another complete game for the Lady Cards, striking out 10 while scattering five hits and walking two. Grace Price went 4.1 innings for Anna, allowing five hits and one earned run. Teammate Hannah Howell closed it out, permitting one hit and one earned run.

Madison Davis collected the Lady Coyotes’ lone RBI, as Lauren Kerns, Natalie Koenig, Fekyra Wells, Shataelyn King and Nalyn Koenig posted one hit for Anna. Pevehouse and Savannah Rodriguez led Melissa at the plate with two hits each, with Pevehouse tallying a game-high 4 RBIs.

“It was a good game,” Lady Cards third baseman Macy Stewart said. “We fought our way through. We struggled the first few innings on getting some runs, but we eventually adjusted and were able to put some runs on the board — keep them down.”

Melissa first baseman Becca Pittman added, “It was definitely a fun game. It’s a playoff atmosphere every time we step on the field. I’m especially proud of Alexis for pitching seven innings. That’s hard.”

Said Anna’s Price, “This game compared to our last five games, our energy was a million times better. We came out ready to play and we really did give it our heart — even though the score may not show it. The girls were hyped and they were ready to play.”

“We really came and gave it our all this game,” Howell said. “Maybe a couple of timely hits or a couple of errors, maybe we would’ve won that game — or maybe it would’ve been close. I think if we keep working hard, maybe we can get a shutout for the rest of the season. We’re excited. We’re just going to go out there and have fun, try to finish out the rest of the season on a high.”

Down, 1-0, to start the fourth inning, Anna had something going with back-to-back singles by Natalie Koenig and Wells — but Pevehouse would strike out the next two batters to close out the frame.

Then came Melissa’s big half-inning, with Pittman’s double to left starting the surge followed by an Anna Fortenberry walk. Kayla Stevenson, pinch-running for Pittman, then moved to third on a passed ball and Fortenberry advanced to second. After Rodriguez walked to load the bases, Stevenson came home on another passed ball and everyone moved up. Kennedy Eanes then reached on an error as Fortenberry scored to make it 3-0. Then, with two outs, Pevehouse jacked a double to the fence in left-center and three more runs were plated.

Anna threatened again in the fifth, loading the bases with two outs but no one would make it home. After the third out, Lacy claimed the Lady Cards had not properly re-entered a player in the lineup but her argument was overruled by the home plate umpire. Melissa would add a run in both its fifth and sixth at-bats to build an 8-0 lead. In the Lady Coyotes’ seventh, King opened with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Davis then scored King when she grounded out to second.

Melissa took its 1-0 lead in the first inning, when Kylee Brakebill walked with one out then took second on a passed ball and came home on an Audrey Solomon grounder.

When it was over, the Lady Cards celebrated by helping assistant coach Ashley McCarter douse Pittman — who apparently deserved it — with a cooler-full of water.

“If the girls are having fun, I’m happy,” Rodgers said. “I didn’t have to dance tonight because they were focused on the water bucket. It’s been a long time coming for us to have fun like that, so I don’t mind.”