|Lady Panthers' playoff loss is secondary|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
May 19, 2004 -- MOUNT PLEASANT -- As a footnote, North Hopkins lost to McLeod, 1-0, Tuesday night.
In light of what had occurred that day, the score of the game seemed scarcely important.
Playing without senior left fielder Scarlet Thompson, who died from injuries she suffered in a car wreck earlier that morning, the Lady Panthers focused their emotions on the Class 1A regional semifinal game, but came up short in the crisply-played contest.
With Thompson's No. 44 painted on their arms in red and white, the Lady Panthers continued with the scheduled game at the request of her family.
"It was harder than I thought it was going to be, a lot," said junior pitcher Lacie Palmer. "To look out there where she used to play and she's not there anymore. But, you just have to do what you have to do.
"We knew we had to make Scarlet proud."
Both teams played well without committing an error, and they each made outstanding plays in the field to keep the game scoreless until the sixth. In that inning, McLeod junior Regan Dunlap lined a double to the left field gap and scored on Andrea Dunn's single up the middle. A relay throw home was high and late, and the Lady Longhorns had the only run of the game.
For North Hopkins, Palmer allowed just six hits while fanning four and walking none.
Dunlap, who pitched all seven innings for McLeod, struck out seven while allowing three hits, walking one and hitting a batter. It is the fifth straight game she has not allowed an earned run, and she topped off the contest by striking out the final four batters.
NH coach Jim Westbrook said he was concerned before the game whether the girls could focus on the game. He found out they could.
"I was a little bit afraid of coming down here and being embarrassed because of their minds not being on the game, but that didn't happen," Westbrook said. "I'm really proud of them. These girls were focused and ready to play.
"It was hard getting started, but once we got started they didn't hold anything back. I think it was good for them to show the world that they can handle it. I hope we made Scarlet proud."
One of Scarlet's best friends, Lindsey Horne, had the team's first hit when she singled hard up the middle to lead off the second inning. After Sara Weir walked with two outs, Ashley Hooten hit sinking liner to right in which Felicia Prince made a shoestring catch to rob the Lady Panthers of a run.
McLeod also turned two double plays on sacrifice bunt attempts which were popped up. They came after Chancey Harber led off the third with a bunt single and in the fifth after Weir had singled to center.
Hope Harber was the only NH runner to get as far as third base when she was hit by a pitch to led off the fourth, went to second on Hannah Hankins' grounder and stole third with two outs.
The Lady Panthers made some outstanding plays of their own. Second baseman Ashley Wilson made two running catches on pop-ups, both of them with runners on base, and right fielder Meagan Baxter went into the gap to take away a base hit in the sixth.
"It came down to one hit, but I felt like we played as hard as we could," Palmer said.
They had dedicated the game to Thompson.
"I hated to do without her, but we felt like she wanted us to play. It was extremely hard," said Horne, a senior. "I think it calmed a lot of us down. I don't think it's hit us yet. I don't think it's real yet."