ANNA — With another shutout performance from pitcher Alexis Pevehouse and a two home-run outburst from Audrey Solomon, Melissa’s Lady Cardinals cruised past Anna, 7-0, on Thursday, March 29, at the Anna Sports Complex. The contest was tight, 2-0, heading into the fifth inning but from there Melissa took control. The win kept the 5-1 Lady Cards tied for first place with Celina and, with four district games left, clinched a playoff berth.

With the loss, the Lady Coyotes’ mark fell to 1-5 but they remain alive in the playoff hunt.

Pevehouse struck out 12, walked one and allowed five hits in her second-straight shutout. Solomon went 2-for-4 at the plate and tallied a team-high 3 RBIs. Anna pitcher Hannah Howell logged a complete game as well, striking out five while permitting seven hits with five walks. Amber Thille led Anna hitters with a double and a triple in three at-bats.

“This is a big win,” Melissa head coach Eric Rodgers said. “I know I probably say that every week but they’re all big. I was pretty nervous. I think the girls were handling it better than I was. I tried to keep that from them a little bit. … Going through the second round [of district play] is always tough. Beating somebody twice in the same year is always tough. So, yeah, this could’ve been a ‘trap’ game. But I thought the girls refocused well.”

“You’ve got to give them credit,” Anna head coach Lindsey Gage said of the Lady Cards. “They do everything right, they get the timely hit. That’s one thing we didn’t succeed on tonight. We had runners on just about every inning and we couldn’t get the timely hit. Defensively, Hannah made some good pitches and they were just hard plays and they turned into errors. It’s just the little things that add up that always seem to get us.”

Neither team scored through the first two innings though each got two runners aboard during that span — Anna via singles, Melissa via walks. The Lady Cards broke on top with one run in the third. In that frame, Kylee Brakebill’s one-out triple to right set the table for Pevehouse who sent a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Brakebill. Howell got the next batter on a pop-up to Madison Gaston in foul territory near third base, ending the half-inning.

Solomon opened the fourth with a second-pitch solo homer to left-center field and Melissa led, 2-0. Again, Howell held the damage to a lone run, this time retiring the next three batters in order.

Anna appeared to have something going in the bottom of the fourth when Shelby Dombrowski reached first base on a dropped third strike with one out. Thille then sent a 2-2 pitch into center field for a double, moving Dombrowski to third. But from there, Dombrowski was thrown out attempting to steal home on a passed ball and Pevehouse fanned the next batter on four pitches.

In the fifth, Melissa loaded the bases on three walks then, with two outs, two runs scored on a throwing error to first on Solomon’s grounder to the shortstop. The Lady Cards’ three-run push in the seventh began with Pevehouse’s double to center field and, after a ground-out, Solomon stepped in and drove her second dinger of the day, this time to right. With Melissa up, 6-0, Savannah Rodriguez followed with a double to left and came home when Macy Stewart’s sharp grounder got just under the short stop’s glove and into left field.

Thille’s triple opened Anna’s final at-bat, but Melissa would close it out with a double-play and a throw-out at first on a dropped third strike.

As for Pevehouse’s turn in the circle, Rodgers said, “Early on, I told Coach [Kristi] Brakebill, ‘She’s on.’ Toward the end there she was struggling a little bit, but … she powered through it and I was proud of her for powering through it.” Of Solomon’s two blasts, he said, “Those were nice. Audrey showed a little emotion right there. She’s usually pretty even-keeled but I like it. She’s kind of our quiet leader. It’s good to see her doing that.”

Anna was without seniors Grace Price and Kirklyn Bedwell due to season-ending injuries incurred in the past week. Price, a pitcher and first baseman, tore ligaments in her left foot while warming up at Bonham on March 23. Outfielder/courtesy-runner Bedwell suffered a leg injury in a recent car accident.

The fourth-place Lady Coyotes are a game up on winless Princeton and still in the playoff picture. “We’ve just got to play hard and we’ve got to play pretty perfect,” Gage said. “That’s the story of our district. Everybody’s so talented. It’s just going to be whoever makes the fewer mistakes and whoever gets the timely hits. That’s what I tell our girls. If we just keep working hard, put the ball in play, things are going to happen. But we’ve got to put the ball in play.”