By MIKE PHILLIPS / Corsicana Daily Sun –
From a one-sided laugher to a hold-your-breath finish, Navarro’s softball team celebrated Sophomore Day on Saturday in front of its largest crowd of the season.
The Lady Bulldogs ripped Bossier 14-1 in a five-inning romp and then had to fight for their lives in the second game, finally winning 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh with a squeeze bunt that brought home Caitlin Moerbe, who ended the day with a dust-filled slide at the plate.
Then came the flowers, the gifts and the celebration for the nine sophomores on this team — a team that might be doing a lot more celebrating.
The sweep of Bossier gives Navarro a 15-1 record and a strong grip on first place in the Region XIV race with just four games left. The Lady Bulldogs (33-11) have already earned a berth in the region tournament and are playing like they have plans to go a lot further.
But first things first.
Saturday’s sweep tested a team that has now won 11 in a row, and coming back to win in such a dramatic fashion can’t hurt a group of players who are already close and are playing with the kind of confidence and passion that has already made this season special.
“No doubt,’’ said Jade Havard, who put down the squeeze bunt that won the second game. “There was no doubt in my mind I would put the bunt down. I knew I had to do it.”
That’s confidence. And it didn’t hurt to have the team‘s fastest runner at third. Moerbe can fly. She ended up getting a free trip around the bases in the first game when a hit and a couple of errors produced a home run (well, sort of).
She led off the seventh with an infield hit and moved to second on Destiny Kennedy’s third single of the day and went to third on Mo Miller’s sacrifice bunt (more on Miller later). Then came Havard’s bunt to win it.
“I knew she could do it,” Navarro Coach Jessica Karenke said. I have confidence in her. I have confidence in all of them. It’s a play that’s going to go really good or really bad. I had confidence she would get the bunt down.’’
Havard knew it might come down to a squeeze bunt.
“She (Coach Karenke) forewarned me before I went up (to the plate). She told me if there weren’t any strikes I would be bunting.
“It was a big. We were down 1-0 and our hits weren’t falling, and we had to wait until the bottom of the seventh to win it,’’ Havard said.
Havard went 2 for 3 with a walk in the opener as Navarro racked up 14 runs on 14 hits in just four trips to the plate. Alyssa Dotson, Kristen Ahearn and Megan Noel all went 2 for 3 in the rout. Ciara Luna pitched four innings and gave up just one hit while striking out two. She was perfect through three innings — 9 up, 9 down.
Luna came in and pitched the seventh in the second game to get her second win of the day. Camrie Helm started and had a tremendous performance after a nightmare beginning. Helm hit the first batter and found loaded the bases on two bunt hits with nobody out.
Bossier scored on a sacrifice bunt and Helms went to work and struck out the next two batters to escape trailing 1-0. She didn’t allow another run, thanks to a great defensive play in the sixth and finished strong, retiring the final two batters in the sixth on a fly out and come backer to the mound to leave a runner stranded at second in the sixth.
“She had a shaky start, but she got out of it and she settled down and pitched well,’’ Karenke said.
Of course, there was THE PLAY in the sixth.
Bossier’s Kaitlyn Sewell led off the sixth with an infield hit and Lacy Womack followed with a drive to the gap in left center. Moerbe raced to the ball and made a relay throw to Miller, and the All-American shortstop fired a strike to the plate to nail Sewell as Noel made yet another great tag (she made a similar play last week on a throw from left from Kennedy to cut down a runner at the plate).
“The relay throw had to be perfect,” Karenke said. “Caitlin has the strongest arm in our outfield and Mo threw a bullet to the plate to get her. It was a big play.’’
Miller said she knew she had a play before she turned and threw to the plate.
“I heard everybody shout ‘go for it.’ So I knew I had a shot at it,” said Miller, who then watched the play at the plate. “That’s one of the best feelings in the world in a close ball game.”
Miller, who has nailed two runners at the plate this season, has a gun at shortstop and put it on display more than once, and she also had a big day at the plate. She went 4 for 4 in the opening game, and put down two huge sacrifice bunts in the 2-1 win. Both her bunts moved runners up who eventually scored, and on both sacrifices Miller was out at first on bang-bang plays.
Kennedy led off the first inning with a single and Miller bunted her to second. Kennedy moved to third on an error and scored on Dotson’s sacrifice fly to knot things at 1-1, and then in the seventh it was Miller whose bunt moved Moerbe from second to third just before Havard‘s bunt brought home the 2-1 win to complete such an upside down day with a romp and squeeze play.
“It has a lot to do with our intensity,’’ Miller said of the two games being so different. “We didn’t come out of that first game with intensity, but we found it at the end.”
OTHER REGION XIV SOFTBALL SCORES SATURDAY:
Paris 16-8, Trinity Valley 14-12
Angelina 12-8, Coastal Bend 2-0