By Blake Long/Special to the Journal
BALDWYN – Even with little success early in the game, the Hatley Lady Tigers stuck with their small-ball tactics until they finally paid off.
Hatley broke open a scoreless game with a two-run fifth inning, which included three sacrifices, on their way to a 3-0 victory over Baldwyn in Game 2 of the MHSAA Class 2A North fastpitch softball championship series.
The win capped a sweep of the Lady Bearcats and punched the Lady Tigers’ ticket to Freedom Ridge Park for next week’s 2A state championship series. Hatley will face either Clarkdale or Enterprise Clarke with Game 1 starting at 6 p.m. Friday.
“We weren’t hitting very well today and we couldn’t execute with runners in scoring position,” said Hatley coach Chris George. “It’s something we’ve been able to do all year is revert to small ball and get things done.”
Baldwyn pitcher Jorda Waters carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning, but the Lady Tigers (27-5) threatened in each of the previous innings.
Errors and walks allowed Hatley to move runners into scoring position before popups helped the Lady Bearcats (20-14) escape with no harm.
Jamelle Vance led off the fifth with the Lady Tigers’ first hit, a single up the middle. Vance stole second and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt attempt by DeAnna Wright, who reached safely on an errant throw.
George then turned to more small ball to score Hatley’s first run. Kelsey Wilson successfully laid down a safety squeeze bunt to score Vance for a 1-0 lead.
Hatley sacrificed five times in the game, four bunts and Mallory Ashcraft’s sac fly that scored Wright to round out the fifth.
“They (Hatley) do a good job of bunting,” Baldwyn coach Jessica Taylor said. “That’s something that we’ve struggled with this year, and that’s hurt us a bit.”
Baldwyn did not advance a runner past second base as Lesley Hudson struck out seven in improving to 23-2 in the circle for the Lady Tigers.
Wright led off the seventh with a double, moved to third on a passed ball, and scored on a wild pitch to add an insurance run for Hatley.