PRINCETON — The Anna Lady Coyotes kept their playoff hopes alive on Wednesday, April 4, with a 12-5 takedown of Princeton behind Hannah Howell’s one-hit, complete-game pitching gem — and plenty of balls put in play by Lady Coyote batters.

Anna head coach Lindsey Gage has been telling her charges to “put the ball in play” and good things would happen — and that was certainly the case this night. Five Anna batters posted two or more hits in this crucial road test for her team.

“We’ve been preaching that to the girls all week,” Gage said. “We’ve been talking about just choking up, putting the ball in play — especially when you’ve got two strikes. The girls did a really good job of that tonight.”

Now 2-5 in District 11-4A play, the Lady Coyotes remain in fifth place but can still reach that fourth spot — and the playoffs — by winning their final three district games.

Howell struck out nine and walked five in taming the Lady Panthers.

“We have to win-out for the rest of district,” Howell said, “so we’re feeling a little pressure. But I’m very confident in my defense. I try to go out there and not put too much pressure on myself. When I do that I overthrow. I just need to trust in my teammates and their abilities.”

Her top pitch this go-around? “Definitely my curve ball,” she said. “That was definitely a go-to.”

“Hannah is always Hannah,” Gage said. “We’ve got to clean it up defensively. There’s no reason we should give up five runs when you only give up one hit. But I’m just proud of the girls. They knew we had to have this so they put a little bit of pressure on themselves. But that’s what we’ve got to do to get in.”

Madison Davis swung a big bat for the Lady Coyotes, going 4-for-5 with three RBI. “It all comes with practice,” Davis said. “You practice like you play. I’ve really wanted to win these games to go to the playoffs so I’ve been focusing on the [batting] cages and putting some work in.”

Other top performances at the plate for Anna included Amber Thille, 3-for-3 with an RBI; Kallie Harris, 3-for-4 with an RBI; Howell, 2-for-5 with a three-run triple; and Lauren Kerns, 2-for-4 with an RBI.

Princeton went up 2-0 in the first inning on what looked to be a blown call by the home plate umpire. With two Lady Panthers on base and one out, a Princeton bunt attempt didn’t appear to leave the batter’s box but was ruled a live ball. Two runs scored on the throw to first, which may have been interfered with by the runner and went into right field.

The umpire was later heard telling Gage, in part, “That’s on me” – which did little to rectify a situation that could’ve cost Anna a playoff spot. Fortunately, the apparent mistake didn’t matter as the Lady Coyotes erupted for seven runs in the third inning and never looked back.

That frame started with consecutive singles by Davis, Thille and Howell, followed by a fielding error on Princeton’s pitcher, which scored Davis. Then, with the bases still loaded, Shelby Dombrowski was hit by a pitch sending Thille home with the tying run. A Harris single to shortstop was next, scoring Howell and the Lady Coyotes led, 3-2. Kerns’ single to left field gave Anna another run and Hannah Morland picked up a bases-loaded walk for a 5-2 Lady Coyotes advantage. Anna added two more runs before the half-inning ended on singles by Davis and Thille.

The lead moved to 10-2 in the fifth on Howell’s three-run shot to right. With the bases loaded again in the sixth, Davis’ single to right plated the Lady Coyotes’ final two runs. Princeton pushed back with a run in the bottom of the sixth and two more in the seventh. The game ended, appropriately, on a ground-out to Howell.

“We came into this game with a lot of positivity and our energy was really high,” Davis said. “We were up at all times. It just brought a lot of good things to our game tonight.”