GROVE- It wasn’t easy, but the Grove Lady Red found a way to hang on and defeat the Collinsville Lady Cardinals 4-2 for their second win on Wednesday, advancing to the regional finals.
The Lady Red easily defeated the Tulsa Rogers Lady Ropers in their first game, a 17-0 run-rule win, but the nightcap against the Lady Cards was anything but easy.
“It was a battle,” Grove head coach Jeremy Collins said. “I knew it would be.”
The Lady Red seemed to have put the game out of reach with two runs each in the fifth and sixth innings to break a scoreless deadlock and take a 4-0 lead.
But the Lady Cardinals would get a two-run home run to left field in the bottom of the sixth to cut the lead in half. Fortunately for the Lady Red, starting pitcher Jessica Walker was able to finish the game, getting around a one-out base hit in the seventh to end the game.
It was a game in which both teams struggled to find any offense. Walker overpowered the Lady Cards with 10 strikeouts, allowing just three base runners through the first four innings.
But a young Grove squad could not come up with any clutch hits of their own, stranding a pair of runners in scoring position in the second inning.
“We’re just young,” Collins said. “Overcoming adversity is sometimes hard for young players. It was a different situation than what they’re used to being in. It’s different when it’s a playoff game as opposed to a regular season game. We were all just a little bit tight, being hyped up and not able to relax.”
But a squad with just four seniors and two juniors finally put some runs on the board in the fifth inning. Andrea Gonzalez led off the inning with a base hit followed by an infield single by Kaitlin Threet two batters later. After Katie Stout was hit by a pitch, Ashleigh Tramel came through with the big hit the Lady Red needed, sending a double into the right centerfield gap for two runs.
Grove would add two more in the following inning thanks to a pair of costly Collinsville errors. Walker led off the inning with a single, and outfielder Shae Scott put down a sacrifice bunt to move her to second. But the throw by the Collinsville third baseman was wide, putting runners on second and third.
A pair of pop ups in the infield followed, and a third by Threet appeared to end the inning. But the ball was dropped; allowing Walker and Scott to score for a 4-0 lead the Lady Red would not lose.
“After we got the two runs we were able to relax a little bit,” Collins said.
As of press time the Lady Red were scheduled to play the winner of an elimination game between Collinsville and Bishop Kelley at 4 p.m. If they win that game, they would advance to next week’s state tournament. A loss would lead to an if-necessary game immediately afterward with the winner advancing to state. Log on to www.grovesun.com for the latest updates on the regional tournament and look for a complete wrap up and state tournament preview in Tuesday’s edition of the Grove Sun.