ENNIS — North Hopkins jumped out to a big lead early and never looked back.
The Lady Panthers were up 5-0 after just two innings as they bolted from the blocks quickly, taking an 8-2 win over Valley Mills in Thursday night regional softball semifinal Class 1A playoff action at Ennis High School.
The game was the first tilt in a best-of-three playoff series will all games slated for Ennis.
The second game will be at noon Saturday and a third contest, if needed, will be played immediately afterwards.
It was dazzling glove work and pinpoint pitching which propelled the Lady Panthers.
Senior starting pitcher for North Hopkins, Chastin Smiddy, was in control on the mound limiting the Lady Eagles’ scoring with a variety of pitches at different locations.
Smiddy pitched seven innings, allowing two runs, off six hits, striking out seven with no walks.
“We pitched them inside and outside. We really did not know how they hit because we had not scouted them in person,” said North Hopkins head coach Jim Westbrook. “I think they had the most trouble with the inside pitches. Chastin did a fine job hitting spots.”
The Lady Panthers hit more than in spots, it was all over the field. North Hopkins had 12 hits, scoring eight times off Valley Mills starting pitcher Abi Jobe.
Crissy Hall, Cheyenne Duke, Jessica Harry and Grace Cox each had two hits.
The aggressive baserunning of the Lady Panthers led to a run in the first inning.
Smiddy singled to left field, and Crissy Hall followed with a bunt single. An errant throw to second missed the mark allowing Smiddy to score and North Hopkins to take a 1-0 lead. Courtney Loper singled off the second baseman’s glove. Loper stole second and took third on a wild pitch. Harry grounded out and the runner was tagged out rounding third.
Smiddy struck out two of the first three batters she faced and the Lady Eagles were retired quickly in the bottom of the first, despite slapping a single.
North Hopkins went back to work and puting a four spot on the scoreboard in the top of the second.
Catcher Liz Shaw started the rally with a single to left field. Tana Hall bunted, forcing a quick and off target throw to first for an error. Duke singled home a run. Grace Cox went down on strikes. P.K. Harlin singled to the outfield to plate another run and make it 3-0. Harlin stole second. Smiddy grounded out.With two outs and runners at second and third bases Hall doubled over the left fielder’s head to score two runners and make it 5-0. Loper hit a pop fly to third for the final out of the top of the second inning.
Smiddy was cruising with Valley Mills sent to the bench in order from a strike out and two harmless pop flies.
Harry led off the top of the third with a single to left field. Shaw bunted the runner to second with a sacrifice. Hall grounded out to second, but Harry advanced to third base. Duke singled to right field to plate the run and give North Hopkins a 6-0 lead. Cox singled to right field, then stole second to put two runners in scoring position. Valley Mills coaxed Harlin to ground out, ending the threat and leaving two runners stranded on the sacks.
After two quick outs, Hannah Eccleston reached on an infield error. Alissa Graves hit a sinking line drive down the first base line which was caught near the fence on a fine running grab by Cox.
The North Hopkins girls scratched across another run in the fourth. Smiddy reached after being hit on the foot by a pitch. Hall bunted the runner to second base. Loper grounded out to third, but Smiddy took third in a daring base running move. Harry doubled to left field for the RBI to give the Lady Panthers a 7-0 lead.
The Lady Eagles managed to get on the board in the bottom of the fourth. Ali Cox doubled deep to the left field fence. After two quick outs, Jobe singled to left field for an RBI, making it a 7-1 game.
Both teams added one run each to bring the score to the final of 8-2.
Smiddy gave up a triple late in the game with Jobe scoring on a single by Mallory Deeley. Smiddy closed the bottom of the seventh with style striking out two of the final three batters. The last batter she faced, Eccleston, went down meekly on three strikes as the game ended.
“We did a good job. I think we won because we had better pitching and defense. Smiddy was good and we had several really good catches by Cox, Tana Hall and Loper,” Westbrook said.
The coach added, “We’ve got one win, but this is not over. We still have to win another one to take the series. We’re not through with our business. I told the girls they have to withstand this Valley Mills team. We got them in this game, but they’re capable of putting up five or six runs.”
Game 1, Region II Semifinals
North Hopkins 141-110 0 -8-12-1
Valley Mills 000-100 1- 2- 7-3
W- Smiddy; L-Jobe; 2B-Cox, C.Hall, G. Cox, Harry; 3B-Jobe.
Next up- Game 2, noon Saturday, Ennis High School; Game 3, if need same location.
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