HOWE — In a game that started with the look of a high-scoring affair but became a defensive tussle, Anna’s Lady Coyotes topped Howe, 4-1, on Tuesday, March 6. It was tough pitching, solid defense and opportune hits by Anna — plus five Lady Bulldog errors — that told the story of this non-district meeting.

The Lady Coyotes (7-4) popped for three runs in the second inning and added another in the sixth, while holding Howe to its lone first-inning score. Only recently returning to the pitcher’s circle, Hannah Howell went all seven innings for Anna, striking out six while scattering six hits and walking two.

“Hannah threw great for us,” Lady Coyotes head coach Lindsey Gage said. “She’s finally starting to get back to the ‘old Hannah.’ She was hurt there for a little bit. And our defense played great. I think we had one or two miscues in the outfield. Other than that, defensively, we played a solid game. That’s what it’s going to take for us to win games.”

Shelby Dombrowski shined at shortstop for Anna, posting four pop-outs — with two in the “darned nice play” category.

“She’s really coming into her own at shortstop,” Gage said. “She’s getting more comfortable there every single game. I’m really proud of her.”

At the plate for the Lady Coyotes, Hannah Morland led with two hits and an RBI in three at-bats, while Lauren Kerns tallied a team-high two RBI with a based-loaded walk and a fielder’s choice.

This was the Lady Coyotes’ first game on dirt this season and they appeared to take to it in stride. “As soon as the JV got finished playing,” Gage said, “we jumped on here and took probably 50 or 60 ground balls apiece, trying to get used to the dirt. The girls love it. It’s fun for them.”

Pitcher Courtney Hooper went the whole way for Class 3A Howe (5-9) as well, affording Anna six hits and four walks with a strikeout. Six different Lady Bulldogs collected hits, with Peyton Streetman and Kasie Morgan smacking a double each. “We started off a little bit slow,” Howe head coach Tiffany Moreland said, “then kind of picked up toward the middle of the game, started hitting the ball well. But five too many errors.”

The Lady Bulldogs jumped in front, 1-0, but this initial half-inning could’ve been worse for Anna save for two Howe runners getting thrown out at the plate. Erin Blackburn’s single to left and a walk by Streetman started things off, but when Cassidy Anderson bunted to the pitcher Blackburn was caught in a pickle between third and home and eventually tagged out by Anna catcher Kallie Harris.

Streetman scored on Torrey Stubblefield’s groundout at first base and, after Payton Griffin walked, Anderson was thrown out — Harris to Howell — trying to steal home on a wild pitch.

In the second inning, Anna got rolling with two outs when Morland’s single to center scored Madison Gaston who’d reached base on an error. Madison Davis followed with a first-pitch line-drive single to center. Chastity Brown-Littleton’s infield single then loaded the bases for lead-off batter Amber Thille.

The Lady Coyotes would need no more hits, though, as Thille and Kerns both walked to bring home two runs.

For the next three frames, neither team could gain sufficient run-scoring traction.

Anna changed that in the sixth, when Morland led off with a single to center and Brown-Littleton reached on an error. Thille’s single to center followed, loading the bases for Kerns’ fielder’s choice that sent Morland home with the Lady Coyotes’ fourth run.

After going down in order in the sixth, Howe managed two singles in the seventh but was unable to rally.

“We’re still pretty young,” Moreland said of her team at this point in the season. “We’ve gotten better since the beginning, though. We just played in the [Paris] Chisum tournament and took first in that, played really well.”

The Lady Bulldogs have already begun District 10-3A play, getting edged by Leonard, 3-2, in eight innings a day before meeting Anna.

Rick Atkinson is an independent correspondent who regularly contributes to the Anna-Melissa Tribune sports section.