Crawford survives a Lady Gladiator rally to win game 1 of the Regional playoffs

Image: Lady Gladiator infielders Katie Byers, Megan Richards, Bailey Bumpus, Alyssa Richards, Bailey Eubank and Jaclynn Lewis check out their Crawford competition during introductions.

Lady Gladiator infielders Katie Byers, Megan Richards, Bailey Bumpus, Alyssa Richards, Bailey Eubank and Jaclynn Lewis check out their Crawford competition during introductions. (Barry Byers)

Waco — The Lady Gladiators begin game 1 of their 2A regional quarterfinal matchup against the Crawford Lady Pirates with senior pitcher, Megan Richards taking the mound. With Italy’s fans blasting noise across the field to give their ladies an adrenaline rush, Megan Richards strikes out out Crawford’s first batter for the first out of the game. Crawford’s next batter singles to centerfield where Madison Washington fields it for Italy and gets it in to teammate Bailey Bumpus. Alyssa Richards(9) tears off her catcher’s mask to catch a popup behind the plate for the second out. Bumpus fields a grounder hit to the senior shortstop who then throws to Jaclynn Lewis for the third out to beat a Lady Pirate sliding into first base.

Leading off for Italy, Washington singles to centerfield. Lewis doubles to left field to put runners at second and third base. Alyssa Richards is walked but Washington is gunned down at third by Crawford’s catcher for the first out, catching Italy off the bag. Megan Richards grounds out to the mound but advancers runners to second and third. Bumpus bats next but now Lewis is caught too far off the third base bag for the third out on another tremendous play by Crawford’s catcher, game on!

In the top of the second, Crawford starts with a single and then bunts toward the mound where Megan Richards scoops the ball throws to Lewis at first for the first out. With a runner on second, third baseman Katie Byers catches a foul ball next to Crawford’s dugout for the second out. Crawford hits an RBI single to left field where Tara Wallis fields the ball and throws in to Bailey Eubank at second base. Crawford leads 1-0. Megan Richards responds by striking out the next Lady Pirate batter for the third out.

Bailey Bumpus lines a fly ball toward first base where the catch is made for the out. Alma Suaste grounds out to second base. Byers grounds out back to the mound for the third out to conclude the second-inning.

Crawford singles to start the top of the third. Lady Gladiator catcher, Alyssa Richards, covers a bunt and quickly throws to Eubank covering first for the first out but the Lady Pirates advance a base runner to second. Megan Richards records another strikeout for the second out. With the runner now on third, Crawford deflects a hit of the glove of Megan Richards who recovers but the throw is late to first and the runner scores from third. Crawford leads 2-0 with a runner on first. Crawford sends one deep into the left field corner but Wallis gets under it for the third out.

In the bottom of the third, Eubank slaps a popup to Crawford’s shortstop who makes the catch for the first out. Wallis slaps a grounder to short and is thrown out at first for the second out. Washington follows with another shot to Crawford’s shortstop, and again, the agile Lady Pirate makes the play at first base for the third out.

Megan Richards starts the fourth-inning with a strikeout but Crawford’s next batter lines one off the glove of Byers at third to get a runner on base. Crawford then drops one into the right field gap where Suaste fields it and throws all the way into Megan Richards near the mound. Lady Pirates stand with runners on first and third. A bunt loads the bases. Again, Crawford bunts but Megan Richards fields it and throws to little sister, Alyssa Richards, for the force out at home, two away.

Crawford hits a dart back to the mound where Megan Richards is unable to stop it cleanly. The throw is late to first keeping the bases loaded. The RBI single gives the Lady Pirates 3-0 cushion. Crawford finally grounds out to Bumpus at short who throws to Lewis at first for the third out.

In the bottom of the fourth, with one out, Alyssa Richards rips the ball over the left field fence. FOUL BALL! However, Crawford keeps pitching to her and the junior aggressively belts a grounder into centerfield to reach first base. Megan Richards earns a walk to put two on base for Italy. Bumpus smacks one into the outfield to score both Richards’ sisters. Bumpus, however, is thrown out at third trying to turn a triple on the play for the second out.

The senior slugger tightens the score 3-2 with Crawford still in front. Italy’s fans are louder than ever while Crawford’s fence line is hushed. Suaste, with a full count, flies out to left field for the third out to end the fourth-inning excitement.

Crawford begins the fifth with a single to centerfield where Washington controls it to hold the runner at first. Megan Richards collects a dinker to the mound and throws over to Lewis for the first out but the runner advances to second. Moments later, with the runner on third, Megan Richards pitches a strikeout for the second out. Eubank fields a grounder at second and tosses to Lewis for the third out.

Now in the bottom of the fifth-inning, Byers grounds out to second base, Eubank strikes out and Wallis hits a screamer to the mound where Crawford’s pitcher makes the grab for the third out.

In the top of the sixth, Bumpus fields a grounder and fires to first base where Lewis makes a difficult catch for the out. Crawford’s protests the call and gets the call overruled in favor of the Lady Pirates. Coach Reeves silently storms out of Italy’s dugout to discuss the change with the plate ump but the runners stays on first.

Crawford bunts and the ball is covered and thrown to Eubank covering first for what seems to be the first out. Again, the call goes against the Lady Gladiators and Crawford has two on base. Megan Richards strikes out the next batter for the first out. Jaclynn Lewis and Megan Richards swap positions putting the capable freshman on the mound. A grounder hit to Bumpus, at short, throws to Byers for the force out at third, two away. Crawford hits to the mound where Lewis gathers it and throws to Megan Richards at first for the third out.

Already in the bottom of the sixth and Italy with two outs, Alyssa Richards is walked to put a runner on. Megan Richards hits a single to represent the winning run at first. Bumpus connects and Alyssa Richards rounds third thinking of reaching home to tie. Deciding to head back to third, Alyssa Richards slips along the baseline and is tagged out before she can recover to the bag for the third out.

Crawford breathes a sigh of relief and tries to add to their lead in the top of the seventh. Lewis begins with a strikeout. Washington highlights a crucial defensive effort by Italy with a diving catch in shallow center for an out. Next, Suaste chases after a fly ball hit into the right field corner where she makes a running catch near the foul line helping Italy keep Crawford from adding to their lead. The Lady Gladiators grab their bats for one more chance to tie or win.

Suaste reaches first when a fly ball to right field drops in front of Crawford’s defender. Byers flies out behind first base. Eubank pops up to Crawford’s shortstop for the second out. Wallis singles toward third and reaches first base. The throw to first seems to get past Crawford’s first baseman so Suaste rounds second and continues to sprint toward third base. The throw to first, however, took a Lady pirate bounce back into the first baseman’s glove who turns and quickly throws to third where the tag is made on a sliding Suaste to end the game. Crawford wins game 1 of the series 3-2 in a wild one.

The two teams prepare for the double-header to be played the next day with one team needing two wins to advance in the playoffs.