New Albany coach Shane Sanderson assured his team a 21-inning battle in its playoff series with Houston on Saturday. Falling 5-3 in the first game, the Lady Bulldogs came back for a 7-3 game two win before falling to the Lady Hilltoppers, 6-5, in the deciding third game.
Houston built a 4-0 lead in the first game and held on for the two-run win. After talking things over with his team, Sanderson watched as the Lady Bulldogs, led by a trio of batters with two hits each, tie the series.
“We were really tense in that first game, and we had a talk after that game,” Sanderson said. “They came out after that and played ball. I’m proud of them and did what we knew they were capable of. They showed a lot of heart, and I’m very proud of them.”
Ahead 1-0 in the top of the third, Megan Dye and Lauren Cavender extended New Albany’s lead to 3-0, and New Albany maintained that lead until Houston tied the game in the fifth.
M.K. Sullivan put the Lady Hilltoppers on the board with her bases loaded single, and Talaja Echoles tied the game, plating two on her single. New Albany regained the lead in the sixth, scoring on an RBI single from Quinlon Amos, and Shaneka Cullins added to that in the seventh, hitting a two-run home run, making it 6-3.
“She was struggling all day, and she just wasn’t confident,” Sanderson said of Cullins. “They have a great pitcher, and she waited on the perfect pitch and nailed it. We said we needed some insurance, and she gave us that.”
New Albany’s final run came on a sac fly by Lauren Cavender. Mallory Beaty, Dye and Tamaria Ivy each had two hits to lead New Albany in the win.
Houston scored first in the final game, as Echoles plated a run on her double in the first. New Albany tied the game in the fourth inning on a sac fly by Lauren Cavender, but Echoles gave the lead back to the Lady Hilltoppers after her two-run home run in the sixth.
New Albany scored four runs in the bottom half of the sixth, led by a two-run double from Amos. Leading 5-3 in the top of the seventh, New Albany was one out away from the win, when Houston had three straight hits and a Lady Bulldog error that plated three runs, giving Houston a 6-5 lead.
“We helped them a lot there, and we knew that,” Sanderson said. “The biggest thing for us is just not digging ourselves a hole, and we did that a lot early in the season. I knew they were down, and I told them that we have the top of the line up. We wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. We didn’t quit; we knew we had a chance. They came out fighting; we just fell one run short.”
New Albany had hits from Cullins and Beaty in the bottom half, placing runners at first and second with two outs, but were unable to score anymore.
Beaty and Dye each had two hits to lead New Albany in the loss.