It’s what would become an instant classic, the top-seeded Elsberry Lady Indians were upset by the District 11 softball host Louisiana Lady Bulldogs to bring Elsberry’s season to a screeching halt.
“Unless you win state, it never ends well and this one was really hard for all of us to swallow,” said Lady Indians Head Coach Trudy Bull after suffering a 3-2 loss despite having the lead going into the seventh inning.
The scene was set as the heavy favorite Elsberry would take on Louisiana for the fourth time this season. Unlike the previous three meetings, where Elsberry won all three, this game seemed different.
For the Lady Indians their bats were silent for most of the game and defensive mistakes and walks may have cost them.
“Becca [Almus] threw pretty well for the most part. She did have some walks that are not normal for her,” said Bull. “Our defense let us down a couple times costing us the runs.”
The Lady Bulldogs got the early lead in the third inning when Caitlin Bolton scored from first on a single by Samantha Henderson.
Despite the bats being quite for most of the game the Lady Indians had two huge chances to score early on. Both were squashed with plays at home where two Lady Indians runners were thrown out at the plate.
In the bottom half of the third, Lady Bulldog pitcher Kaitlyn VanHooser threw to first base on the bunt attempt, Felicia Pruitt broke for home on the throw and was gunned down by the throw from Ashley Martin.
“If we score those runs it’s a completely different ball game. It’s a game of opportunities and we blew two huge ones with running mistakes,” said Bull.
In the bottom of the sixth inning Elsberry finally broke through. After loading the bases on two walks and a sharp single off the bat of Kaity Grills, Brea Johnson drove in two runs with a small dribbler up the right side that stayed fair.
“We got the break we had been needing all game,” said Bull. “Kaity getting a hit and then Brea’s amazing slow roller should have been the lift we needed.”
Unfortunately for the Lady Indians the lead was short lived. The Lady Bulldogs lead-off batter Martin walked followed by a single from VanHooser putting runners on at first and second. Denise Blackwell grounded to third for a force out. Molly Ross stepped up to the plate with the game on the line and hit a screamer to left field getting past Elsberry’s Madison Cleveland scoring two runs to give Louisiana a 3-2 lead.
“We are normally a good hitting team and all we needed to do was put a couple hits together,” said Bull “We were confident having the top of the order up, but things just didn’t work out.”
VanHooser made quick work of the Lady Indians in the seventh striking out Sabrina Pruitt, getting a pop up from Tanner Bencomo and then ending the game with a long fly ball off the bat of Almus.
While the loss may have been hard to swallow and most thought this program would go farther than it did, Bull stated she is still proud of what this team has accomplished.
“We made a lot of great memories winning tournaments,” said Bull. “It’s a special group and this team will be hard to replace.”