McKINNEY — In the flash of one swing of an aluminum bat, the laughter turned to tears.
North Hopkins saw their dream of playing in the state softball tournament go up in dust as they lost 3-2 to Lindsay in the deciding game of the Region II Class 1A playoffs on a sizzling Saturday afternoon at McKinney High School.
North Hopkins had won the first game 6-3 Wednesday in the best-of-three game series with Chastin Smiddy pitching --suffering a line drive off her left leg. But she kept on pitching.
Smiddy pitched Game 2 Saturday at McKinney, but it was not a glove story. The Lady Panthers made four uncharacteristic errors opening the door for the Lady Knights who paraded through and took a 5-1 win. The victory for Lindsay forced the pivotal Game 3.
Both teams had scored in the first three innings, but neither had managed to cross the plate in the later stages of the game. Down 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh, North Hopkins would have to rally to keep hopes alive of making their first appearance in the state tournament.
With one out in the final frame, Cheyenne Duke picked North Hopkins off the deck when she reached on an infield hit, beating out a chopper to third base. Grace Cox followed with a single to give the Lady Panthers two base runners. P.K. Harlin singled to right field to load the sacks for Smiddy. Smiddy, who hit a torrid .610 in district and already had three hits in six at-bats on Saturday, strolled to the plate. The right-handed batter dug in at the dish knowing a clean single could win the game or at least tie the contest. Smiddy lined a shot that the shortstop lunged to snag in the air, Duke was about to race home and was doubled off third base in a stunning turn of events to end the emotional ball game. Lindsay's defense had preserved the 3-2 win as they took two straight wins Saturday to claim the regional title.
Lindsay players stampeded onto the field in celebration while North Hopkins walked off in dejection with tear-filled eyes.
"I am sorry I could not get you there (Austin)," North Hopkins head softball coach Jim Westbrook told his team in the dugout. "We tried, we played well, we just did not make it."
The kindly coach/principal put his hand on the head of sobbing players telling them they could go on and have productive lives, even after the heartbreaking loss.
"A hit here or there and it's different and we're the ones going to Austin. But it did not work out, that's the way softball is," Westbrook said. "I am proud of the girls, we played well. This was a big step for our program to make it to regionals. We wanted to make it to state.... it did not work out for us. Give Lindsay credit, they came in a game down and beat us twice."
North Hopkins 1
The Lady Knights started the game behind the eight ball. Lindsay had blown a lead in Game 1 and lost 6-3 to North Hopkins. The pressure was on the Lady Knights to get a win just get even.
The Lady Panthers seemed loose in pregame warmups, but when the game started they made errors on balls they usually field.
Smiddy was on the mound and allowed five runs off six hits, assisted by four errors from North Hopkins. The Lady Panthers managed just one run off starter Taylor Atkins.
The game began with the big crowd having little to cheer about after a scoreless first inning.
The Lady Panthers got the early lead. Jessica Harry walked to give the team a baserunner. Liz Shaw struck out, but Tana Hall followed with a single. The Lady Knights had an errant throw getting the ball back into the infield allowing Harry to score. Duke drew a walk and North Hopkins had runners at first and second. Cox and Harlin both fanned and the early threat only netted one run.
The Lady Knights went to work with Atkins reaching on an error. Smiddy struck out Beverly Knabe, but Rose Hermes followed with a single to left field. With runners at second and third, Bethani Eberhart bunted to Smiddy and reached on an errant throw to load the bases. Megan Caillier reached when her ground ball bounced off the glove of second baseman Chrissy Hall and two runs scored. Lindsay got the third run of the rally on a sacrifice fly to center field off the bat of Alyx Ethington. Rose grounded out to end the threat, but North Hopkins was now behind 3-1.
Things would never get better for the Lady Panthers in this game. Lindsay tacked on runs in the fourth and seventh inning to win by the final of 5-1.
North Hopkins 2
It was the deciding game and both teams knew it. Atkins went back to the circle to pitch for the Lady Knights. The North Hopkins pitching duties fell to senior right-hander Harry with Smiddy now at shortstop.
Lindsay was still riding the momentum of the win in the opening game and jumped ahead 3-0 in the first inning.
Hermes started the rally with a walk and Eberhart hit over the first baseman's head down the right field line to reach base. Caillier coaxed a walk from Harry and the Lady Knights had the bases loaded. Harry got the next two batters on strikes, but the danger was not over for North Hopkins. Senior left fielder Kayla Hess doubled home two runs to give the Lady Knights a 2-0 lead. The third run of the inning scored on a wild pitch. Lucinda Krahl was retired on strikes and the damage was limited to three runs.
North Hopkins was kept off the scoreboard after the first inning. Harry had five strikeouts and three walks, called twice for an illegal pitch.
The North Hopkins team would load the bases in the bottom of the seventh, but were not able to score.
Lindsay, 27-7-2, won the game 3-2 to sweep Saturday action and win the series 2-1, advancing to the state tournament.
The season ended for North Hopkins at 20-7 winning the district, area, regional semifinal and quarterfinal games before losing in the regional finals.
It was the final outing for seniors Smiddy, Harry and Cox. Virginia Thomas listed on the roster, but unable to be at the finale.
Westbrook said, "This has been such a good group of girls to coach. I never had to tell them to practice, they put in the work.They are a very hard-working group and they will go far. We have a good bunch coming back for next year. We sure appreciate the big group of fans at the games Saturday, it was good to see and it meant a lot to us to have the support."
Lindsay 5, North Hopkins 1
Lindsay 003 100 1 - 5-7-2
North Hopkins 010 000 0 - 1-4-4
2B-Smiddy, Hermes 3B- Knabe
Lindsay 3, North Hopkins 2
Lindsay 300 000 0 - 3-4-2
North Hopkins 002 000 0 - 2-7-4
2B- Eberhart, Hess
Lindsay advances to state Class A tournament
North Hopkins 20-7, season ends.
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