ROYSE CITY — It was a situation Crandall’s high-rolling Lady Pirates likely weren’t expecting and — after 12-straight blow-out wins — clearly hadn’t faced in some time: a tie game in the seventh inning. But that’s exactly where Melissa’s feisty Lady Cardinals had Crandall on April 27 in their bi-district playoff matchup at Royse City High School. But then the No. 3-ranked Lady Pirates (24-1-1) did what they do: explode with a torrent of runs — this time seven in the final frame for a 10-3 win.
Melissa (22-7) actually led this one, 3-1, before Crandall scratched back to tie it at 3-apiece in the sixth.
“I’m proud of them,” Lady Cards head coach Eric Rodgers said of his charges. “I don’t think Crandall showed up expecting a seven-inning game. Our district has prepared us for this. And, again, I’m not ashamed of our fourth-place finish in our district. … What we’ve been through in the last month-and-a-half, two months, prepared us and got us ready for this. (Crandall) kept the pressure on and they just broke through.”
Rodgers said his team’s plan was to hold the Lady Pirates to single-run innings.
“And we did that for six innings,” he said. “We gave them one run three times. They like to live on the big inning — and they got them a big inning. … Hats off to them, they’re a great team. I’m not taking anything away from them, but I’m proud of my girls.”
Said Crandall head coach Teri Grodi, “We went into this week knowing that it was going to be a tough game. We hadn’t played Melissa before. We emphasize to the girls, just play every game like it’s the best team you’ve ever played. And that’s what they did tonight. They battled and they fought until the end.”
As for the Lady Pirates’ late run-tsunami, Grodi said, “Sometimes it’s in the seventh, sometimes it’s in the first. We just take what we can get.”
Rose Mechell started on the mound for Crandall and worked 3.2 innings, allowing four hits with five walks and two strikeouts. Anna Williams took over in the fourth, down 3-1, and did not allow another Lady Card hit.
“We pitch by staff and they work together,” Grodi said. “When one is struggling, the other picks her up. Our defense was on fire tonight. They really backed them up and made sure that if they allowed them to hit the ball, they were going to make the out.”
Alexis Pevehouse pitched another complete game for Melissa and kept Crandall’s hard-hitting lineup at bay until late. Eventually, the Lady Pirates’ hit-total would reach 13, with the final score helped along by four Lady Card errors. Pevehouse struck out nine Crandall batters along the way.
“‘Pevey’ pitched her heart out,” Rodgers said. “She’s pitched her heart out all year.”
Pevehouse led the Lady Cards at the plate as well, with two hits and two RBIs. Her “ribbies” came on a two-run homer that gave Melissa its 3-1 edge, and she led off the game with double. Ethel Warren led Lady Pirate hitters, going three-for-four at the plate, with a home run in the seventh, and 3 RBIs. Four other Crandall batters had two hits each.
Crandall struck first with a run in the second on Angel Grimaldo’s RBI-single to left. Melissa answered in the third when Mechell struggled, loading the bases with two hit batsmen and a walk. Anna Fortenberry then drew another walk to score Pevehouse from third. But Melissa’s potential big inning was cut short with the bases still loaded when an umpire ruled Audrey Solomon had stepped off third base while the pitcher had the ball. Rodgers sternly protested that timeout had been called by the umpire after the close play at third, but to no avail.
In the fourth, Pevehouse’s homer jolted the Lady Pirates but they began to chip back in the fifth. A Warren single started the inning followed by a walk to Karlee Wickersham. With one out, Sidney Sikes then reached on an error to score Warren and Crandall trailed, 3-2. Pevehouse struck out the next batter looking then nailed Wickersham attempting stealing home on passed ball to end the Lady Pirate threat.
Crandall tied it with two outs in the sixth when Grimaldo scored on a passed ball. Pevehouse fanned the next batter to send it to the seventh, knotted at 3-3. The Lady Pirates put it away with a final-frame, six-hit barrage.
“I’ll remember their fight,” Rodgers said when asked about this group of Lady Cards. “I’ll remember their heart. They never give up. We’re always in the game. Obviously, 10-3 in the seventh inning is tough to come back from, but, hey, as long as we had an out we were going to come up and fight. And that’s what I love about them. It’s been a blessing to be their coach. My assistant coaches (Kristi Brakebill and Ashley McCarter) are two of the greatest people – not just coaches, but two of the greatest people I’ve been around. So I look forward to next year as well.”