PRINCETON – Anna’s Lady Coyotes extended their school record-breaking softball season Thursday with a series-ending 11-2 take down of Farmersville at Princeton High School. The win followed Anna’s 11-6 win the day before and sends the Lady Coyotes to the regional finals for the first time in program history.
Standing-room-only crowds were on hand each evening as these Class 4A Region 2 semifinalists battled it out. Anna’s Hannah Howell pitched both complete-game victories without walking a single batter while Lady Coyote batters racked up 30 hits all told.
“They don’t have any quit,” Anna head coach Lindsey Gage said of her team shortly after AHS athletic director Jason Heath delivered yet another trophy to the Lady Coyotes. “They don’t know when to stop, they don’t know what it’s like to stop. They just keep rolling. We gave up two in the first inning and it could’ve gone either way. But they settled down and came to play the rest of the game.”
This was the first 3-game-series test for Anna in its current four-rounds-deep playoff run.
“I worried a little bit,” Gage said. “I didn’t want us to come in too lax, but I also didn’t want us to come in with so much pressure that we couldn’t play out here. I just told the girls, ‘If y’all play how I know you can play, you’re going to be OK.’ We know Farmersville can hit so no lead ever feels comfortable when you’re playing them. The score may not have showed it but it was intense the whole game.”
In the series-clincher, Howell struck out six and permitted three hits with no earned runs as the Lady Coyotes (24-8-1) overcame three early-game errors.
“They are a solid team and they have a great lineup,” Howell said of the Lady Farmers (22-9). “It was a dogfight and I’m glad we could play them and come out on top.”
Anna’s Hannah Morland went 3-for-4 at the plate, with a pair of doubles that hit the fence and 4 RBI.
“I was just looking to get a good base hit and get our runners in,” she said. “We had a lot of chances to get scores and I was just trying to help the team out a little bit. … I’m really happy and I’m really excited that we’re making history. And I’m excited for what’s to come. I think we’re going to go all the way if we really try our best.”
The Lady Coyotes cranked out 14 hits in this one. Others who swung big bats for Anna, with their totals, were Madison Gaston, 2-for-2 with an RBI; Howell, 2-for-4, 2 RBI; Kallie Harris 2-for-4, 2 RBI; and Amber Thille with a double and an RBI.
Anna quickly recovered from its 2-0 hole to lead 3-2 after two frames. Howell singled home Price in the Lady Coyotes’ first at-bat and Howell and Gaston combined for consecutive RBI-singles in the bottom of the second.
The contest’s die was effectively cast in the fifth when Anna blew up for five more runs, boosted by singles from McPherson, Harris and Gaston, and Morland’s 2-RBI double to center field. In the sixth, Morland’s next 2-bagger plated runs 10 and 11.
Farmersville was retired in order in the seventh with second baseman McPherson diving to gather in the series-ending out.
In Game 1 the evening prior, the Lady Coyotes unleashed a 16-hit attack and fought off two Lady Farmer rallies for the 11-6 win. Anna’s leads of 5-0 and 10-4 were cut to 5-4 and 10-6 but each time the Lady Coyotes answered.
And Anna’s defensive statement to close it out in the seventh was one to remember. With the Lady Farmers down five runs and in desperate need of a spark, each of the game’s final three outs came in highlight-reel fashion.
First, when Farmersville’s Miranda Duran jacked a dangerous-looking shot into right-center field, Thille, ranging hard to her left, made a leaping grab. Next, Christa Lannon sent a high frozen rope toward the right field fence but Price turned and ran it down with an over-the-shoulder catch. The game-ender came on a tough-chance grounder to Gaston at third who scooped it cleanly and fired to a stretching Qua Fisher at first base, beating the runner by half a step.
“Wow,” Gage said when asked about that big-time door-slam. “We struggled defensively this game so for us to come out and make three really big plays like that – I hope it’s a momentum-changer for us tomorrow because I never really felt like we had the momentum today.”
Indeed, Gage said that even with Anna’s big leads she never felt comfortable.
“I felt like we were grinding every single pitch and every single play. … We’re successful when we get on base - and we had tons of base-running errors today too and we haven’t done that all year. I think the nerves got us a little bit early in the game. But I’m just proud of them for bouncing back.”
“I thought it was going to fall a lot sooner,” Price said of her crucial late catch. “Then I realized it was going over my head and I told myself, ‘You’d better book it because there’s no excuse not to catch that ball.’ As soon as I caught it I thought, instantly, ‘This is exactly what we work on every day in dailies.’ We hate it while we’re doing it, but it pays off.”
Price also had a stellar night at the plate, going 3-for-5 for 3 RBI.
“I was just looking to hit the ball. I was definitely trying to be disciplined.”
Other Lady Coyote big-hitters included Morland, 2-for-4, 3 RBI; Madi McPherson 2-for-4, 2 RBI; Shelby Dombrowski 3-for-3, 1 RBI; Harris, 2-for-4; Howell 2-for-5; and Thille with an RBI-double, the Lady Coyotes’ only extra-base hit.
Howell scattered nine hits and struck out seven.
“She’ll tell you she didn’t throw her best game,” Gage said, “but she threw good enough. I think on a good day Hannah’s really good and on a bad day, Hannah’s still really good. She’s a senior, she stuck it out and she deserves that one.”
In the second inning, McPherson’s infield single sent Dombrowski home with Anna’s first run. Howell retired the side in order in the bottom half of the frame, setting the stage for the Lady Coyotes’ first big inning. Price and Howell led off the third with back-to-back first-pitch singles, with Howell’s banging off the left field wall. Gaston followed with a bunt and reached base when the throw was dropped, and Harris scored from third for a 2-0 lead. Dombrowski’s single to left then plated courtesy-runner Adrienne “Koolaid” Newman and two more runs would score on Morland’s ground out to second.
Farmersville got untracked with two outs in its half of third. An RBI-single down the left-field line, one to center and a 2-RBI blooper to left had the Lady Farmers back in it at 5-4.
There the score remained until Anna erupted again in the fifth. Dombrowski’s two-out single to right started things and Thille brought her home with a first-pitch double to left. Morland’s ensuing single to right made it 7-4 as Thille slid home. After Fisher walked, McPherson singled home Morland. The Lady Coyotes’ advantage would stretch to 10-4 on Price’s 2-RBI single into to center field.
Farmersville chipped back with two runs in the sixth, including Haley Lewis’ towering solo home run to deep center but Anna got one back in the seventh on Price’s RBI-single.
Price was asked about the Lady Coyotes’ confidence level at this point.
“It’s insane,” she said. “Everyone, they’re always encouraging everybody and they’re just a great team to be around.” Thille agreed. “Our confidence is out the roof now that we’ve made it this far. … I think we’re going to make it to the end.”
As for Farmersville’s comeback tries, Thille said, “We were trying to keep it together because every time last year and the year before that we’ve always fallen apart. We’ve gotten a lot better at keeping things together and knowing that the game’s not over just because they get one run.”