ECRU – North Pontotoc took advantage of a two-run fielding error by Houston to take Game 1 of their best-of-three series in the second round of the Class 4A playoffs with a 4-1 victory on Thursday night.
The two will meet again in Houston on Saturday at 11 a.m. to decide the series, a rematch of last season’s 4A North fast-pitch softball championship.
“Both teams are really good teams,” said Houston coach Keith Jernigan, whose squad had its 10-game winning streak snapped. “We felt like both teams hit real well and both teams pitched well. We’re neck and neck with each other.
“Unfortunately, we made some crucial errors this time,” he said. “We made some errors that we don’t normally make and dropped some balls that we normally don’t drop.”
The Lady Toppers (22-3), the Division 4-4A champs, were in control early though. They took a 1-0 lead in their first at bat after Chelsea Gates tripled and scored on an infield hit by Brittany Winter.
But things came unraveled in the third.
North’s Brittany Seale reached safely on a fielder’s choice and Courtney Quillian followed with a two-out infield single. Arriann Henry lofted a fly to left that would have ended the inning, but the ball popped loose and the two runners scored. Henry later scored on a double to left by Brianna Gable, giving the Lady Vikings a 3-1 lead before the inning was over.
Meanwhile, North (25-3), the reigning Class 4A champs, played flawless defense, and Gable (13-2), a right-handed senior, worked out of jams in the first, second and sixth.
“I thought Brianna threw about as well as she could and the defense played as well as it could play,” said North Pontotoc coach Shane Montgomery. “The error in left helped us, but we made the plays. The bottom line is our defense stood out today.”
North added a run in the fifth on a sac fly by Quillian that scored Taylor Coker.
“The error in left field helped us a lot,” said Quillian, North’s senior third-baseman, “but we got runners on base and got the clutch hits when we needed them.”
Jay Tidwell/Special to the Journal