By TONY EIERDAM
GRAHAM – Graham smashed 14 hits and took advantage of Mineral Wells errors as Lady Blues cruised to a 10-1 win over the Lady Rams here Friday night in game one of their Class 3A, best-of-three bi-district playoff series.
Game two will be at 1 p.m. Saturday (April 27) at Kessler Field on the campus of Mineral Wells High School, with game three, if necessary, to follow 30 minutes after the conclusion of game two.
The winner of the series will advance to the area round and face Hillsboro, the winner of District 7-3A.
Lady Rams freshman pitcher Kelsey Keeton took the loss in the circle for the Lady Rams. Keeton allowed just two earned runs on eight hits with no walks and five strikeouts in 3-2/3 innings.
Allie Stephens finished in the circle, allowing no earned runs on six hits with no walks and two strikeouts.
Nantz was the winning pitcher for the Lady Blues, allowing a run on three hits with three walks and six strikeouts in seven innings.
Graham used a four-run third inning – where all of the runs were unearned – to break open a tight game.
Lady Blues’ sluggers Nantz, Krisha Hamm and Tanisha Reeve – hitting 3, 4, 5 in the batting order – each recorded a double in the third. MWHS also committed a pair of errors in the frame.
“We have a young outfield (all three starting outfielders are sophomores) and they have worked hard all year, and they have come a long way,” Lady Rams head coach David Tarver said. “Graham hits the ball hard, and the wind was blowing hard making it difficult to catch everything. It was a learning experience.”
Graham added three more runs in the fourth to take a 7-1 lead. The big hit in the inning was a two-run home run over the left-field fence by Lexi Allen, who would record four RBI in the contest.
The Lady Blues scored three times again in the fifth for a 10-1 advantage. The big hit was a two-RBI single by Allen off of Stephens.
The game would have ended on run rule in the fifth had it not been for a spectacular play by MWHS first-team, all-state junior shortstop Bethany Allen.
Nantz hit a line-shot ground ball up the middle, but Allen dove to her left and while hitting the ground hauled in the ball, popped to her feet and threw a strike to first base to get the Graham pitcher by a step.
What made the play even more remarkable was the fact that just moments earlier, Bethany Allen had collided with left-fielder Addie Singleton on a short pop fly to left and did not get off the ground for several minutes.
But both Bethany Allen and Singleton remained in the game and are likely to play on Saturday.
Nantz retired the last nine MWHS batters to seal game one.
Tarver said the best news was having the next game – and possibly another – at home to complete the series.
“You have to forget game one and move on to game two,” Tarver said. “We have two games at our place if we win the first game, and we feel like we have a home-field advantage.
“We just have to get the job done.”
The Lady Rams took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Catcher Reagan Patterson reached when her hard-hit ground ball was mishandled by Graham shortstop Reeve.
Hope Patterson, the next batter, walked, and Keeton followed and was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Stephens followed and her ground ball to second base was misplayed, allowing Reagan Patterson to score.
The Lady Rams loaded the bases again in the second inning, but with two outs Nantz forced a ground out to end the inning.
The Lady Rams managed to get only one runner on base in the third, fourth and fifth innings, but each runner was left stranded.
By TONY EIERDAM
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