It just took two games to decide the series.
Sulphur Springs scored a 5-3 road win at McKinney North Saturday and sealed the deal to win the best-of-three bi-district softball playoffs.
Sulphur Springs 9,
McKinney N. 0
Hailey Dixon struck out 17 and pitched a one-hit shutout as the Sulphur Springs Lady Cats won 9-0 over McKinney North Friday night.
The game, the opening tilt in a best-of-three series belonged to the hometown Lady Cats as they hammered out nine hits and rode the right arm of Dixon to victory in an dominating fashion.
"I think when Hailey struck out their big hitter (Taylor McAllister) to open the game it set the tone and we took it from there," said David Carrillo, Sulphur Springs head softball coach.
"We were very relaxed and we played one of our best games," Carrillo said. "I told Hailey it was just another game and she pitched great. I challenged the girls a couple of weeks ago to bring their A game. They brought it tonight."
Dixon had the Lady Bulldogs off balance all night with a mixture of fastballs, curves and a rising screwball. She struck out eight of the first nine batters she faced including seven in a row. She struck out every batter for McKinney North at least once. She was particularly effective against the bottom of the lineup, striking out hitters five through nine, 10 times. She walked four in the game. The only hit allowed a clean double by McAllister in the top of the sixth inning.
Dixon threw 107 pitches, 68 for strikes.
Sulphur Springs was ripping the ball at the plate, scoring three times in the second inning and then adding six more runs in a huge rally in the bottom of the fifth. Kaylee Anderson had a two run double, catcher Toni Cody cleared the sacks with a three-run double later in the game. Sarah Womack and Jaleigh Avery also had multiple hit games and drove in runs. Kiara Johnson slapped two singles. Dixon reached on an infield roller as everything came up rose for the Lady Cats at home.
The Lady Cats flexed their muscles in the top of the McAllister. M went down on strikes. Alli Lindsey drew a walk, but was cut down on the bases on a throw from Cody to Anderson as she attempted to steal second. McKinney North starting pitcher Celeste Verdolivo went down on strikes to end the top of the first.
The Lady Cats went down in order in the bottom of the first as action moved to the second frame in a scoreless game.
Dixon kicked her game into hyperdrive striking out the next three McKinney North batters in order on 11 pitches in four minutes.
The Lady Cats put on their hitting gloves in the bottom of the second. Avery singled and later moved into scoring position as Makayla Glosson reached on an error. Anderson doubled both runners home with a scalding hit to the outfield fence. Womack got the third run of the frame home with a single through the shortstop hole. The next batters were retired, but Sulphur Springs had the momentum and a 3-0 lead at home.
Dixon continued to torture Lady Bulldogs batters throwing them pitches they could not touch. In the top of the third, McKinney North went down in order on strikes as it took less than five minutes for Dixon to polish off the batters.
With Dixon cruising along, the Lady Cats put the game on ice with a six-run fifth inning. 10 Sulphur Springs hitters went to the plate. McCullough reached on a fielding error. Dixon got on base and an errant throw allowed the Lady Cats to move runners to first and third. Johnson moved the runner to second base with a bunt. A wild pitch scored McCullough to make it a 4-0 ball game. Avery doubled in a run taking a full court pitch and hammering it to center field as the Lady Cats went up 5-0. Chester doubled in a run on an 0-1 count and the lead ballooned to 6-0. Smiley Coxwell was inserted to pitch as Verdolivo was removed by McKinney North. Womack drew a walk to load the sacks and Cody came up with a double to the fence scoring all three runners to pad the advantage to 9-0.
The Lady Cats kept McKinney North off the scoreboard for the rest of the game and won by the 9-0 final in the bi-district opener.
Dixon said after the game that all her pitches were working and that McKinney North hitters did not know what was coming.
"I had good control, I walked a few, gave up one hit," Dixon said. "I had my pitches working and was hitting the spots for strikes."
Cody, the catcher for the pitching gem said it was Dixon's screwball which paid dividends. "Her screwball was really good, it started to rise and it was hard to hit," Cody said. "This was a big win we needed."
Sulphur Springs 5,
McKinney N. 3
McKINNEY — Kiara Johnson had a triple and an inside-the-park home run as the Lady Cats won 5-3 at McKinney North on a cloudy Saturday morning.
Dixon again was the winning pitcher as she allowed three runs and struck out eight in the win.
Sulphur Springs again got key hits off Verdolivo as she was tagged for the pitching defeat for McKinney North.
The Lady Cats struck first in the Saturday game scoring once in the second inning. Anderson singled and was knocked in by Cody on a single to the outfield.
McKinney North had a rally in the bottom of the third to tie the game. A stellar catch by Makayla Glosson in shallow right field prevented more runs being scored. Glosson’s catch came with the bases loaded and two outs.
The game stayed tied at 1-all through the middle innings.
Sulphur Springs got the lead with three runs in the top of the sixth. Johnson tripled off the outfield wall. Johnson scored when the throw to third was wild. Avery doubled to the outfield to give the Lady Cats another runner in scoring position. Chester grounded out, but the errant throw was far enough off target that Avery could hustle home to make it a 3-1 game. McKinney North inserted Coxwell to pitch. The Lady Cats got another run before the rally ended and they took a 4-1 advantage.
The final run of the game for Sulphur Springs came with two outs in the top of the seventh. Johnson connected with a 2-2 pitch and hit the offering into the right field corner. McKinney North fielder could not contain the blast as Johnson circled the bases for the inside-the-park home run. The Lady Cats were up 5-1. Avery made the third out, but Sulphur Springs was in good shape late in the contest.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Lady Bulldogs scored twice with two outs, aided by a fielding error to make the final out interesting.
Leading 5-3 in the game, Dixon shook off control problems and closed out the contest.
With two runners on base, Dixon struck out Chandler Johnson to end the game. McKinney North unable to tie the game.
The Lady Cats will play either Nacogdoches or Red Oak in the next round of the Class 4A softball playoffs.
Carrillo added, “We made the plays and got the key hits. We just battled and really played well in the series.”
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