Finishing games and working on the mental aspect of playing are goals New Albany coach Shane Sanderson wanted to achieve this year. After a ‘roller coaster’ year, those very things are what hurt the Lady Bulldogs as they fell to Houston, 10-4 and 13-12 on Tuesday.
“We had this problem last year, and we’ve closed the gap this year, but this year has been a roller coaster,” Sanderson said. “I take blame for that, so it’s on me to figure out how to fix that. The mental aspect is top of our list. We didn’t scratch the surface with that this year.”
In game one, New Albany found themselves down early, as the Lady Toppers scored three runs off back-to-back doubles by Blakely Wright and Madeline Burdine. After scoring one in the bottom half, Shannon Goode made it a one-run game with her RBI single in the second, but Houston answered with three runs in the third.
New Albany would make it a two-run game in the third, 6-4, off a two-run double by Mallory Beaty, but Houston added four runs over the last two innings off seven hits to capture the win.
“We had twice, girls at first and second with no outs and the runners never saw third base, and we weren’t taking advantage when we needed to,” Sanderson said. “We were really flat and we had some defensive errors that game as well.”
In the second game, New Albany built a 12-3 lead before Houston scored 10 unanswered (five runs in the fourth, one in the fifth and four runs in the sixth) to sweep the series.
“We got a little lazy, complacent, and I told them coming out of the third inning to not help them any, and they’re a good team, and sure enough, we had a few errors and they got hot and they wanted it a little more than we did,” Sanderson said. “That’s hard to swallow in our last game. We preach every game to play like it’s your last, so it’s tough to lose that way. We don’t have tomorrow to bounce back and make it better.”
Goode and Shaneka Cullins each had four hits in the second game, followed by Mallory Beaty with three hits, including a two-run home run in the second. Despite the playoff loss, New Albany took a step forward this season, winning its division title. Now the focus turns to picking up a playoff victory next season.
“We were division runners up last year, winners this year, but we’ve got to focus now on getting to that next round,” Sanderson said. “I’m excited because I have eight coming back, so I’m very optimistic we can go a long way. We’ve just got to learn to win those close games and play every inning.”