ALLEN – Just as quickly as the Plano East softball team began to mount its comeback in the top of the seventh inning, Allen’s defense took it all away.
With the Lady Panthers planting the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position with one out, junior Courtney Compton both snuffed out a heat-seeking line drive by East senior Nikole High and then tagged out sophomore Aahmyri Kennedy, caught in no man’s land just a few feet off third base, for the clinching out in Tuesday’s 5-4 victory.
The win bumped the Lady Eagles above the .500 plateau in District 9-6A action at 2-1, dipping East to 1-2 in the process.
Allen kept its head above water for much of the evening, leading by as many as three runs before a late push by the Lady Panthers nearly made it all for naught. Pulling within 5-4 in the fifth inning, East nearly blindsided the Lady Eagles with another surge to begin the seventh as Kennedy bunted her way on base and freshman Payton Leonard doubled into right field to put the pair on third and second, respectively.
Compton’s unassisted double play would follow, but just as vital was a timely defensive stop in center field by senior Myah Eldred one at-bat prior during Leonard’s double.
“That was obviously a terrific play to end it,” said Philip Spaniel, Allen head coach. “Just as big was the play before with Eldred playing that ball so it didn’t get to the wall. With Kennedy right there, if that ball gets to the wall, she’s scoring easily. Myah did a really good job understanding the situation, knowing we couldn’t afford to give up a run there.
“It was a big play and then to end it with [Compton] was pretty special as well.”
The Lady Eagles put themselves in position for the win after breaking a 2-2 tie with a three-run outpouring in the fourth inning. Allen’s aggressive base-running spurred the rally, as an errant throw to second base by East on an attempted stolen base by junior Ashley Easley allowed junior Lauren Lopez to score from third base for a 3-2 advantage.
During that same at-bat, senior Maleah Ross plated Easley with an RBI triple to left field. Ross was one of two Lady Eagles to log two hits in Tuesday’s win, scoring a run and adding a stolen base.
“That’s just one tool you can’t teach,” Spaniel said of Ross’ speed. “Having somebody that puts the ball in play quite frequently and always gives herself a chance to get on base – even if it’s something in the infield. She understands that’s who she is and we love having speed like that.”
Eldred followed with an RBI bunt single for a 5-2 lead that the Lady Eagles never relinquished, despite a prompt return fire by East. The Lady Panthers countered with a pair of runs in the fifth inning, buoyed by their lineup. Senior Ronni Ramos and Leonard singled early in the frame and High pulled East within one run after ripping an RBI double into left field to score her two teammates.
“[The top of the order] did a really good job, but we just gave up too many 60-feets – too many errors,” said Cindy Mosteller, East head coach. “Nikole pitched a great game and kept their three-four hitters off balance all game – I don’t think they had a hit all game. We’re giving up five runs and those two don’t get a hit. We don’t need that happening with our defense and they had to play better tonight.”
The Lady Panthers committed five errors in defeat – miscues that contributed to four unearned runs allowed by High, who pitched all seven innings and struck out 10 batters. The pitcher walked only two batters on the night – the last being freshman Sami Hood in the third inning. Hood proceeded to steal second but wound up ultimately scoring after a pair of East errors.
“I think it just comes down to focus – not squeezing the ball or seeing the ball into the glove. Just little things,” Mosteller said of the miscues.
An aggressive approach by the Lady Eagles didn’t make life any easier on East, with Allen totaling six stolen bases in the win.
“We’re going to stick to what we’re best at,” Spaniel said. “If there’s something we think we can take advantage of then we will. But there wasn’t anything particular about this matchup – we just had to go out and play our game.”
Ross and Eldred both submitted two-hit, one-RBI nights at the plate, while freshman Taylor Wright added an RBI double in the second inning for the game’s first run. In the circle, sophomore Alexis Telford tossed a complete game.
East, meanwhile, benefitted from two-hit nights from the top third of its lineup – Ramos, Kennedy and Leonard – plus a pair of RBIs by High.
“We’re playing hard, and that’s what you like to see. We’ll have an error but we’ll come back and do something positive,” Mosteller said. “We just have to eliminate some of those errors.”
The Lady Panthers look to do so at 7 p.m. Wednesday when they host Plano Senior. Allen, meanwhile, has a bye from 9-6A competition and will instead visit Rockwall for a 1 p.m. first pitch Wednesday afternoon.