Lady Gladiators defeat Tolar in two games to claim area championship

Image: Anna Viers and the Lady Gladiators slide past Tolar for area — Sliding into third base is Italy freshman, Anna Viers, who helped the Lady Gladiators win the area championship by defeating  the Tolar Lady Rattlers 7-0 in game one on Friday and with a dramatic rally to win game two on Saturday, 9-8.

Anna Viers and the Lady Gladiators slide past Tolar for area — Sliding into third base is Italy freshman, Anna Viers, who helped the Lady Gladiators win the area championship by defeating the Tolar Lady Rattlers 7-0 in game one on Friday and with a dramatic rally to win game two on Saturday, 9-8. (Barry Byers)

The Lady Gladiators will take on Meridian in the regional quarterfinals this Thursday, May 13 at 6:00 and Saturday, May 15 at 4:00 & 6:00 (if needed) in Joshua.

Fort Worth — After defeating DeLeon for the bi-district championship by winning two straight games. The Italy Lady Gladiators (19-6) were entangled with the Tolar Lady Rattlers (14-3-1) on Friday as both teams looked to take control in a best 2-out of-3 area-round playoff series.

Italy defeated Tolar at this stage of the playoffs a year ago and are determined to make sure history repeats itself. The bright sun sparkles off the Lady Gladiator gold uniforms as Italy bats first to begin the rematch.

Top of the 1st inning:
Anna Viers gets walked to first base and then steals second base. Megan Richards hits with velocity and pulls out a triple to score Viers, 1-0 Italy. Alyssa Richards drives one toward left field and Megan Richards heads for home. Unfortunately, Tolar’s shortstop reaches up for the out and then throws to third base to beat Megan Richards back to the bag for before she can tag-up. Double play for the Lady Rattlers.

Cori Jeffords singles with a grounder over second base and into center field. Drew Windham singles and Bailey Bumpus gets on to load the bases against Tolar. With 2-outs, a full count and the bases loaded, designated hitter Meredith Brummett smacks one deep to left field but the Rattlers make the catch for out number three.

Bottom of the 1st inning:
Tolar pops one up toward Italy’s dugout. Windham races to make the catch in foul territory for the first out. Tolar drops one into shallow left field. Italy right fielder Alma Suaste fields it on the bounce and throws to Windham on first but the runner was ahead of the throw. Westbrook takes charge at the mound to get the Lady Gladiators out of the inning, score remains 1-0 in Italy’s favor.

Top of the 2nd inning:
Tolar’s pitcher comes out strong to sit down Italy’s first three batters and retire the side.

Bottom of the 2nd inning:
Italy’s Westbrook retakes the mound and matches Tolar’s pitching effort with three straight strikeouts. The Italy defense rushes off the field to congratulate Westbrook as they try to trade in their mitts for hits.

Top of the 3rd inning:
M. Richards leads off with a single. A. Richards gets walked to put runners on 1st and 2nd base. Jeffords turns a single into a double after an overthrow to first base. A. Richards advances to third on the Lady Rattler miscue and M. Richards scores to give Italy a 2-0 advantage.

Windham gets the sign from Italy’s head coach Jennifer Reeves who is coaching third base. Windham then lays down a sacrifice bunt to score A. Richards and is thrown out at first, 3-0 Italy’s lead. Bailey Bumpus strides to the plate and hits to Tolar’s shortstop. The Lady Rattlers throw “Bump” out at first for out number two. The damage was done, however, as the effort by Bumpus scores Jeffords to give Italy a commanding 4-0 lead. With 2-outs, Brummett doubles for Italy but is left stranded to close the inning.

Bottom of the 3rd inning:
Westbrook strikes out Tolar’s first batter. Tolar’s next batter drives the pitch back at the mound causing Westbrook to deflect the ball. Viers tries to make the play from her shortstop position but the Lady Rattler beats the throw for a single. Westbrook then registers her second strike out of the inning.

With 2-outs, Tolar’s next batter drops one in the left field gap. Italy’s Bumpus rushes over from center field and picks up the ball firing it to M. Richards waiting on third. Bumpus and M. Richards catch the greedy Lady Rattler runner trying to reach third for out number three.

Top of the 4th inning:
Westbrook flies out to Tolar’s shortstop. Viers confidently steps up to the plate and drives the pitch directly to the Tolar mound. Tolar’s pitcher is able to slap the ball down but is unable to beat the speed of Viers to first base with the throw. Viers is safe!

M. Richards hits into a 2,1 double play as the Lady Rattlers escape the top half of the inning and avoid giving up another score to Italy.

Bottom of the 4th inning:
Westbrook starts out the bottom of the 4th by striking out Tolar’s first two batters. Tolar’s next batter singles and eventually steals her way to third base. Tolar hits a line drive thru the air straight to first base. Despite playing inside the first base bag, Italy’s Windham makes the reaction grab to end the inning.

Top of the 5th inning:
A. Richards. grounds out to third base. Jeffords loads up and drives a single into left field. Windham bloops one over Tolar’s second baseman’s head for a single moving Jeffords to second base. Bumpus blasts an RBI double to score Jeffords leaving runners on second and third, 5-0 Italy.

Brummett grounds out to first base but scores Windham from third, 6-0 Italy leads. Alma Suaste grounds out to second base for out number three. Bumpus is left stranded on third.

Bottom of the 5th inning:
With Westbrook continuing on the mound, Tolar’s first batter grounds out to Windham on first base. The next two Tolar batters pop out to Viers at shortstop as Italy gets a quick three up, three down against the Lady Rattlers.

Top of the 6th inning:
Tolar gets a quick out to start the 6th inning. Italy’s Viers singles and eventually steals her way to third base. M. Richards grounds out to score Viers, 7-0 Italy. Tolar’s pitcher gets a much needed strikeout for the 3rd out.

Bottom of the 6th inning:
Tolar leads off with a shot over the outstretched glove of Windham at first. The ball drops fair into right field for a single. Tolar’s momentum was short lived after Lady Gladiator catcher, A. Richards, threw to Viers covering second to tag the Tolar runner for out number one. Tolar grounds one to Jeffords at second who throws to Windham on first for the second out. A strikeout by Westbrook ends the inning.

Top of the 7th inning:
Italy’s Windham grounds out. Bumpus powers a shot to deep left that falls short of the wall and into a waiting Lady Rattler mitt. Brummett pops out to first base as Tolar heads in for what could be their last at bat of the game.

Bottom of the 7th inning:
Tolar zips a grounder to short and beats the throw to first. The Lady Rattler runner is once again gunned down by Italy catcher A. Richards who throws to Viers for a diving tag to get the first out. Westbrook strikes out the next Tolar batter. The game ends with a low pop-up to Windham near first base for the final out to seal a 7-0 game-1 victory for the Lady Gladiators.

“It was great to see the corrections made in practices earlier this week play out during the game. Even when Tolar had runners on base and hit the ball to our outfield they were unable to capitalize. I’m very pleased with our team’s execution,” stated a jubilant coach Jennifer Reeves.

Sat. 4:00 p.m., Game 2, Italy (20-6) vs. Tolar (14-4-1):

Head coach Jennifer Reeves alternated pitchers Megan Richards and Courtney Westbrook throughout the game. Italy lead early but eventually fell behind Tolar 8-4 heading into the bottom of the 7th inning. The scrappy Lady Rattlers were in position to squeeze out a win and force a game 3 in the best 2-out of-3 playoff series.

During Italy’s final at bat, the Lady Gladiators loaded the bases beginning with M. Richards leading off with a single. Alyssa Richards followed up her big sister with a single as well. Cori Jeffords hit a single to put three runners on. Drew Windham singled to score M. Richards, 8-5 Tolar still leads.

Bailey Bumpus singled next to score A. Richards and keep the momentum going, 8-6 with Tolar trying to hang on. Meredith Brummett popped one up and was called out due to the infield fly rule when bases are loaded. Alma Suaste takes four balls and walks to first scoring Jeffords from third base, Italy pulls within one run, 8-7 behind Tolar. Courtney Westbrook singles to score Windham and tie the game 8-8.

Back to the top of the lineup, Anna Viers flies out to Tolar’s outfield but Bumpus was unable to tag-up and score from third, still tied 8-8. Batting the order and with 2 outs, M. Richards returns to the plate and hits a fence-tapping, right field double to rally Italy back for an 11-8 come-from-behind win. M. Richards was eventually thrown out at third base for the final out but it was too little, too late for Tolar.

Senior first baseman Drew Windham shared, “As soon as Megan hit the ball we started screaming and cheering, we knew.”

During the rally, 8-of-9 Lady Gladiators hit the ball into play recording 7 hits, 1 walk and 6 RBIs. It’s safe to say the team is hitting their stride as they advance to the next round of the playoffs.

Afterwards the team celebrated at CiCi’s Pizza and then left Fort Worth as area champions with a 4-0 record in the playoffs, 21-6 overall. Next up, Italy will take on Meridian in the regional quarterfinals this Thursday at 6:00 and Saturday 4:00 & 6:00 (if needed) in Joshua.

With a playoff run that has already produced “The Catch” by Bailey Bumpus who held on to the ball after colliding with teammate Meredith Brummett to clinch the bi-district championship over DeLeon, and now “The Megahit” by Megan Richards that scored 3-runs to complete the bottom of the 7th inning comeback and to seal the area championship for the Lady Gladiators, imagine what special moment awaits these young ladies and their fans in the regional quarterfinals…