By Melissa Meador/Monroe Journal
HOUSTON – Defending 4A fast pitch champion Houston is living by the big inning so far in this year’s MHSAA playoffs.
On Saturday, that big inning was a four-run fifth inning in which the Lady Hilltoppers (22-5) tied up the game at 4-4 on their way to a 5-4 walkoff win over Amory in eight innings to take first-round series in two games.
“We’re the big inning type of team. We always seem to get behind and then push for the lead,” Houston coach Keith Jernigan said. “We put the hits together and took a couple of walks at the right time, and we got ourselves disciplined with the bats.”
Amory (20-8-1) got on the board first with a pair of runs in the third and fourth innings.
In the third, Alex Stevens and Briana Sloan drew walks to open the inning, and Stevens scored on an error on a pickoff attempt at third base. Bailey Oswalt and Bailey Boyd each added infield singles, and Aynslee Willis’ sacrifice fly gave Amory a 2-0 lead.
Shelby Thornton scored in the fourth when Stevens reached on an error, and a fielder’s choice from Oswalt added another run.
Leadoff hitter Chelsea Gates’ two-run double ignited the Lady Toppers’ offense in their four-run fifth. Mary Kansas Sullivan reached on an error to plate Josie Anderson, and a groundout from Avery Springer tied the game up.
“We responded a lot better today than we did last night,” said Amory coach Amir Hunt, whose Lady Panthers lose no one from this year’s team. “We’ve had an incredible year, and our girls have fought hard. I expect next year to be even better than this year.”
Springer earned the win in relief, giving up just one Amory hit, and scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly from Madeline Burdine after being placed on second to start the bottom of the eighth.
“Avery came in and got the job done,” Jernigan said. “She’s a gamer and a winner, and she was pushing our team the whole way. They responded to her, and she did a great job pitching today.”