CLIFTON – While Taylor Swift and her fans are busy shaking whatever it is off, Madi Gibson and the Lady Tigers walked it off of the diamond with a 9-7 win over Scurry-Rosser in their fourth game of Clifton High School’s season opening tournament.
“It’s always fun,” laughed Glen Rose Head Coach Kiel Miller after the team’s third win of the young season. “I don’t know if I would rather win 50 to nothing or nine to seven in the bottom of the seventh, but they are all fun and we kind of like to make it interesting.”
“It was real disappointing yesterday morning, but I am going to attribute that to an eight o’clock game as to why we didn’t perform well,” Miller added. “Then we saw some pitching that was average and I think that helped to get the girls in line as far as swinging against a live pitcher and we carried that through yesterday and into today.”
Destenie Lewis’s two-run home run – her second of the season – was the only offense for Glen Rose through the first two innings.
The Lady Tigers scratched two more runs in the bottom of the third when Aubrey Starnes led off the inning with a bunt single and later scored on a Sabrina Watson single to right field. Watson tied the game at four when she crossed the plate two pitches later on a wild pitch.
Freshman pitcher, Courtney Morris racked up four-of-her-eight strikeouts over innings four-through-six to help keep the game tied through six-full innings.
“I think this was the best game she has pitched as far as hitting her spots,” said Miller of the young pitcher’s performance. “You look at the seventh inning and, yeah we gave up three runs, but if we weren’t trying to hurry up and throw somebody out somewhere and just make the play on the ball, then how many of those runs score? I think one or two of those runs were unearned because of mistakes we made just trying to go too fast in a bumpy outfield.
“Other than that, I thought she pitched real well and Scurry-Rosser has some good hitters,” Miller added. “Their one-through-five in the lineup were tough hitters for us early on, and then she started really working corners, hitting spots and did an outstanding job today.”
Morris got the first batter of the seventh inning to ground into a weak rollover to Sydney Lozier at second base. A throwing error, two fielding errors and four-consecutive singles followed to build the Lady Cats lead to three, 7-4. Morris induced a lineout to Lewis at short and then picked up her eighth punch-out to end the threat.
The three-run inning put the Lady Tigers into their first high-pressure situation of the young season as they headed into the final half-inning of play.
The scenario was eerily similar to game one of last season’s bi-district series between the two teams. In that game, it was Watson’s inside-the-park two-run home run down the left field line that sent the Lady Tigers to an eventual two-game sweep of the Lady Cats.
“I have been telling the girls to put the bat where it is supposed to be and the bat will do the work,” said Miller of his team’s approach. “I think we really tired to over-swing on a couple pitches a little bit earlier in the fourth and fifth innings and we kind of went into a little slump.”
Jaci Bridges started the comeback train with a comebacker to the pitcher and used her wheels to beat the throw to first. Almost identical to last season’s seventh inning, Watson roped a ball deep down the left-field line, but was this time held to a double and an RBI. Lozier singled to move Watson up a bag, and Lewis found a patch of grass behind first base to score Watson and put runners on first and second with one away and Gibson strolling to the plate.
“When we get deeper in the lineup and get runners on around Madi, then good things can happen for us – especially in crunch time,” Miller said. “We are veterans and our older girls have been there and done that in some pretty serious times, so when the crunch time comes, I don’t worry about it about it. Especially with those older girls up, because they know what is expected and can take care of it.”
Under Miller’s direction to not over-swing, not overthink and to let the bat work, Gibson took a first pitch strike, stepped out of the box and refocused.
The 0-1 pitch was hit hard enough that it ricocheted off of the scoreboard and back to second base before the field umpire had time to turn around. Gibson’s walk-off home run was her third homer of the season and all three have been of the three-run variety.
“It is almost guaranteed that when there is an error made late in a ballgame that there are going to be some runs scored,” Miller said. “I know yesterday, just about every walk that we gave away they scored on and about every error that we committed they scored on. In that seventh inning though, with some of the hitters that we have and where we were at in the lineup, you just can’t make those mistakes. Our seniors in that top-half of the lineup really pulled through.”
After the 15-2 loss in the season opener, Glen Rose scored 38 runs over the next three games and picked up three wins along the way. Lewis was the biggest bat for the Lady Tigers during the tournament, as she picked up nine hits in 12 at-bats for a .750 average and added two home runs to her team-high 11 RBI and seven runs scored.
Gibson collected three home runs in five at-bats and 10 RBI, while Tatum Stegint – who, along with Page Green, missed Saturday’s game for a powerlifting meet – used her two long balls for seven RBI.
Glen Rose returns home Feb. 25-27 for its annual varsity tournament. Schedule has yet to be finalized.