SULPHUR – Evangel struggled in the field and struggled on the mound but managed to string together enough offense here on Friday afternoon to move to the LHSAA Class 2A semifinals with an 8-7 extra-inning win against scrappy Many.
Capitalizing on nine Lady Tigers errors, Evangel had runners on every inning and used its power and speed to win on Field 14 at Frasch Park. Sulphur dignitaries were introduced on the field in the opening ceremonies, and Evangel’s Baylee Shephard caught the first pitch of the event from Calcasieu Police Jury president Shannon Spell.
Evangel kept pulling away from the Lady Tigers, but Many clawed back from three-run deficits twice with chances to win the contest.
“It was an emotionally draining contest,” Evangel coach Sher Mueller said. “We would get our lead, but they kept coming back. I think we went into shock at one point, because I saw this blank look on our players’ faces. I had to get them pumped back up.”
Hero of the day was junior Blaire Buckman, hitting at the bottom of the Evangel lineup. Buckman had a triple, a single and a sacrifice bunt, scoring two runs in support of pitchers McKenzie Ashby, who started the contest, and Carolina Sanchez, who recorded the win.
Buckman scored the winning run when Many’s shortstop threw wildly in an effort to get the speedster at home.
“Coach Sher was making sure I stayed really close to the bag, and I was really confident in Whitney (Usie),” Buckman said. “I was very excited when I scored, because we won and can move on to the next round.”
Many (12-11) looked much better than a No. 22 seed, giving the Lady Eagles (21-6) all they wanted and more.
“We gave them too many chances, and you can’t do that with a team like that,” Many coach Jim Davis said. “But I was proud of the way we kept coming back. These are scrappy girls. They’re country girls, and all they know how to do is to battle. Our three seniors were so glad to get here for the first time that I knew they would give us 110 percent.”
It was the final contest for Brooke Ford, Haleigh Dockens and Kaley Leach, who got the Lady Tigers to Sulphur for the first time in 28 years, according to Davis.
Many picked up its first run in the opening frame thanks to a pair of singles and a couple of Evangel errors. Leach reached on a dropped ball at first and scored after consecutive singles by Shelby Clifton and Ford.
The Lady Eagles responded in the bottom of the first with a trio of singles from Usie, Shephard and Ashby to go in front 2-1.
Faith Miletello and Buckman scored in the second, as Evangel moved in front 4-1. Taylor Leach, Laken Ebarb and Alyssa Delatin scored for Many in the fourth to knot the game at 4-4. Miletello, Sarah Lafitte and Buckman gave the Lady Eagles a 7-4 advantage in the fourth.
But Ebarb hit a home run to open the sixth, while Dockens and Taylor Leach scored to tie the game again.
In the decisive eighth, Buckman singled down the third base line and went to second on a passed ball. Miletello moved her to third with a sacrifice bunt. Usie’s grounder to short allowed Buckman to score and set off a mild Evangel celebration.