ANNA — District 11-4A softball action has arrived, and if this game between genial rivals Melissa and Anna is any sign of what’s to come — everyone, please ensure your seat belt is securely fastened. This may be a wild ride.

The Lady Coyotes gave 11th-ranked Melissa fits for most of the evening on Tuesday, March 14, and led, 1-0, after five innings. Anna defensive gems had been plentiful, led by Chastity Brown-Littleton, who had chased down two long fly balls in right field; Natalie Koenig, who ran one down in center; and Madison Davis, whose double-play throw in the fifth helped keep the game scoreless. And, of course, the pitching duel between Melissa’s Alexis Pevehouse and Hannah Howell of Anna had been impressive.

But then came the sixth, and Pevehouse — the Lady Cards’ talented lead-off hitter — strode to the plate as her teammates went nuts screaming from the dugout. Down a run, Melissa needed an answer — and soon.

“I told them, ‘We’ve got no reason to be nervous,’” Lady Cards head coach Eric Rodgers said. “‘They’re the ones that have to hold on to the lead. We have nothing to lose. Let’s just go get it.’”

Pevehouse “went and got it” alright, stroking a 2-1 pitch deep over the left field fence as Melissa players piled toward home plate to greet her. The Lady Cards went on to win, 4-1, but that home-run moment seemed to effectively be the game-winner, if you ask Rodgers.

“The big one was Alexis, that ball she hit,” he said. “It energized everybody.”

He added, “I thought we were going to get a bigger inning than we got. Hannah did a good job of shutting us down right there.”

Indeed, after Pevehouse’s dramatic dinger, the score remained tied into the seventh as the Lady Coyotes ended Melissa’s threat on a fly ball to the shortstop, a fielder’s choice at second and Brown-Littleton’s third nice grab of the game — and Anna would strand a runner at second in the bottom half of the frame.

In the seventh, Melissa added three runs for its final margin of victory. Macy Stewart opened the inning with an important walk — (important because, as Rodgers noted, it meant the Lady Cards would get back to the top of their batting order.) Maggie Rodgers then legged out her second close play at first base and Melissa had runners at the corners with one out.

A passed ball brought Stewart home, then Rodgers scored on a Pevehouse ground-out to third. Kylee Brakebill then reached on an error followed by a dropped fly ball off the bat of Audrey Solomon that scored Brakebill. The Lady Coyotes would load the bases in their half of the seventh and send Howell to the plate with the potential tying run, but to no avail.

On the mound, Pevehouse allowed two hits and struck out 13. Howell scattered six hits over her seven innings and fanned eight. Maggie Rodgers collected a team-high two hits for Melissa and Pevehouse led the team with 2 RBIs. Each team posted three errors.

Anna’s 1-0 lead came in the fifth after Fekyra Wells walked, stole second, then moved to third on a Hailee Anderson deep ball to left. Davis’ bunt-single brought Wells home before Pevehouse closed out the inning with a strikeout.

“Defensively, we’re capable of that,” Anna head coach Lindsey Lacy said of her team’s stellar effort in the field. “And I just hope the girls realize that now. We just played with a really, really good team. They’re ranked right now. I told our kids there’s nothing to hang our head on. The biggest thing is us leaving runners on. We got people in scoring position and left some there. But I really couldn’t have asked for more. We did everything we supposed to do today. And, hopefully, next time it comes out in our favor.”

“They knew Melissa was good and we played hard,” Lacy said. “Hannah Howell threw great and her defense played great behind her. That’s what we’re going to need throughout district. Coach Rodgers and I were talking. We feel like it’s a toss-up who could win our district because there’s not a bad team in our district. … Our girls are disappointed, but it just shows that we can play with anybody.”

Before the game, Melissa was ranked the No. 11 Class 4A team in the state by the Texas Girls Coaches Association.

“It’s awesome,” Rodgers said. “You have to get that recognition if you want to go where you want to go. But when you’ve got 10 (players) and eight of them are freshmen and sophomores, you worry. … I’ve been telling them it’s a target. It’s a big-time target.”

He added, “I love the fact that it shows how tough our district is. Bonham is at 7, Aubrey’s at 19. And you saw what Anna did. They were on-point with those (defensive) plays — some great plays in the outfield.”

Ultimately, Rodgers said he was proud of every Lady Cardinal this night — especially one who never took the field.

“We had a senior that didn’t play tonight, Katee Johnson,” Rodgers said. “She was a firecracker in the dugout. Without her, I don’t think we win.”