High school sofball playoffs: Harris County splits with Northgate, will play Game 3 Thursday

dmitchell@ledger-enquirerOctober 23, 2013 

In Game 1 of Wednesday’s second-round doubleheader, Harris County went to the game’s final inning tied with visiting Northgate, but couldn’t pull out a win.

Facing elimination, the Lady Tigers were in the same situation in Game 2. This time, they wouldn’t be denied.

Catcher Sarah Kate Jenkins lined a double to right-center field with one out in the top of the seventh inning, scoring Lilly Hooper from first base to give Harris County an 8-7 lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

The win kept alive a season that had been pushed to the brink after an extra-inning 6-5 loss in Game 1. The two teams will play a decisive third game at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Harris County with the winner headed to the state tournament.

“Our emphasis all season has been, even through the craziness, trust the plan,” coach Brook Zuerner said after the nightcap. “Don’t buy into the craziness, because it always seems to get crazy.”

It certainly did.

After both teams scored two in the first inning of Game 2, the Lady Tigers took complete control of the game in the second it appeared as if they would even up the series with ease.

Abby White led off the second with a home run over the centerfield fence to give Harris County a 3-2 lead. Abbey Thomason and Trinity Smith both reached on bunt singles, and, two batters later, Julia Clark loaded the bases with a single of her own. With the bases loaded and only one out, Erin Dansby broke the game wide open.

She connected on a high pitch and sent it clear over the wall in center for a grand slam to give the Lady Tigers a commanding 7-2 lead.

Craziness struck in the fifth and sixth innings, however. Northgate plated three in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single by Brenna Skalski. Three batters later, Emily Heath added two more with a double.

The next inning, Harris County got the first two outs with ease. An infield single and a two-run homer by Brittany Futral, however, tied the game at 7-7 headed into the final inning, where Jenkins’ RBI double won it for Harris County.

Northgate had a chance in the seventh with a pair of singles, but Smith threw out a runner at third to end the game.

“She had been struggling at the plate, beating herself up, but she always seems to put the team on her back,” Zuerner said of Jenkins.

Jenkins said the big game-winning hit would do wonders for her own and the team’s confidence going into Game 3.

“It’ll help a lot,” she said. “Just with self esteem. … I was just telling myself to stay calm and know that my teammates could pick me up, but just get the job done.”

Harris County nearly took the opener, as well, despite trailing 5-2 going into the sixth inning.

After taking a 2-1 lead in the first on a two-run homer by Dansby, the Lady Tigers fell behind in the fifth when Northgate plated four runners. Smith drove in one run in the sixth to cut the lead to 5-3, and pitcher Kayla Cotton tied it up with a two-run homer in the seventh.

Northgate scored one in the first extra frame, though, to take the opener 6-5.

Cotton will pitch the third game on Thursday, as well, and Jenkins said the Lady Tigers are as motivated as ever to advance to the state tournament.

“First, we have to trust God’s plan,” she said. “And we have to bring our A-game. We’re definitely motivated.”

Wednesday at Harris County

Game 1

Northgate 100 040 01—6 11 1

Harris County 200 001 20—5 9 0

WP—Jenna Pealor. LP—Kayla Cotton. Team leaders: Harris County, Erin Dansby 1 for 4, HR, 2 RBIs, Kayla Cotton 3 for 3, HR, 2 RBIs.

Game 2

Harris County 250 000 1—8 9 1

Northgate 200 032 0—7 12 0

WP—Cotton. LP—Pealor. Team leaders: Harris County, Dansby 1 for 4, GS HR, 4 RBIs, Abby White 1 for 3, HR, RBI. Record: Harris County, 25-8. Next: Thursday, vs. Northgate in Game 3.

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