CARROLLTON – Hebron head softball coach Chelsea Herndon has praised freshmen Haylee Epps and Allie Lovett for how well they have handled pressure situations.
Epps and Lovett again showed during Tuesday’s 2-1 home win over Coppell that no amount of pressure is too big for them.
With the score tied a 1-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Epps led off the inning with a single. And given Epps’ speed on the base paths, there was no hesitation on Herndon’s end to initiate a stolen-base attempt for the freshman shortstop, who proceeded to steal both second and third bases.
“She’s fast, so I might as well take advantage of her speed,” Herndon said.
That set the stage for a dramatic walk-off hit by Lovett. Lovett clubbed the game-winning single over the glove of Coppell junior first baseman Emily Fischetti and into shallow right field. Epps sprinted down the third-base line and touched home plate without a throw.
“I’m just really proud of my freshmen,” Herndon said. “We had our freshman Haylee Epps come up with a clutch hit to lead off the inning. She, obviously, had that tough play where she was kind of battling a hand injury. And she was like, ‘Coach, I’m just going to push through it.’ Her coming up and my other freshman, Allie, came up clutch. She had some good at-bats all game. So, there was no way that I wasn’t going to let Allie bat.”
Epps suffered a hand injury while making contact with center fielder Ashley Vacarro as they tracked down a pop fly in shallow center field in the top of the third inning.
Epps laid on the outfield grass for several minutes, but she eventually got up and stayed in the game.
“I was just trying to go for the ball, and Ashley came in and I tripped over her and landed on my thumb,” Epps said. “My thumb went back and it hurt really bad, but I just knew that I needed to push through and get the win for my team.”
The win bumped Hebron (18-8 overall, 8-3) into a tie with Coppell (18-7, 8-3) for first place in District 6-6A. Being tied for first place appeared to be an afterthought for the Lady Hawks just one month ago after they started district play 1-3 with losses to Flower Mound, Plano and these same Cowgirls.
But, a 1-0 victory against Marcus on March 22 steered the ship in the right direction for Hebron. Monday’s win was the seventh straight for the Lady Hawks.
Monday’s game started in an inauspicious manner defensively for Coppell. Cowgirl junior third baseman Talia Stuchal cleanly fielded a ground ball that was hit off the bat of Lady Hawk junior Shorey Nguyen, but Coppell was late getting to first base. The throw across the diamond sailed wide of the bag, allowing Nguyen to advance to second base to lead off the first inning.
Moments later, Nguyen tagged up at third base and scored on a sacrifice fly by junior catcher Zoe Bowen for a 1-0 Hebron lead.
Coppell was quick to answer.
Sophomore Mallory Moore and senior ElleBelle Zimmerman strung together back-to-back, two-out singles. Stuchal kept the rally going, making contact with the third consecutive single by the Cowgirls. Moore touched home plate on the play, and the Cowgirls tied the score at 1-1.
The game proceeded to settle down with Coppell senior Kat Miller and Hebron sophomore Lucy Crowder becoming locked in a thrilling pitcher’s duel. Neither team scored a run over the game’s next four innings. And both Miller and Crowder were benefitted by excellent defensive play.
In the top of the fifth, Coppell senior Adrianna Erichsen hit a hard liner into center field for a hit. She got aggressive on the base path, attempting to stretch a single into a double. But, Vacarro made an on-target throw to second base and Erichsen was tagged out with several feet to spare.
Coppell came close to taking the lead in the sixth inning. Junior Medleigh Danchak hit a two-out double, and as Fischetti rounded third base, she slipped on the bag. Cowgirls head coach Ashley Minick said that she was attempting to hold up Fischetti, who reached on a double, and see how the throw back into the infield would determine if she would send Fischetti to home plate.
The Cowgirls had runners on base in three of the final five innings but were unable to produce the go-ahead run.
“We had our chances,” Minick said. “But unfortunately, we couldn’t get some bunts down. But, that’s OK. We’ll come back tomorrow and see if we can work on fixing it.”