CROWLEY — The game that lasted well into the darkness Thursday could very well be a preview of this year’s Class C softball championship game.
Hackberry entered the District 6-C contest ranked No. 1 in the latest power rankings and held the title of defending state champion. Northside Christian entered the game ranked No. 2 in the rankings, and held the title as defending state runner-up.
Hackberry had bested Northside Christian 10-0 in last year’s title game in Sulphur but had already dropped a 4-1 decision in a district play to them on March 24.
This time around, Hackberry prevailed with a 4-3 win in nine innings.
“We could see this type of game again,” Hackberry coach Angie Little said. “This game could have easily been played on the turf fields in Sulphur. If we are going to win the title this year we are going to see them again.”
Pitcher Brianne Beard put together a dominant performance for the Lady Mustangs. The all-state pitcher struck out four of the first seven batters she faced and finished with 12 for the game.
Beard, who threw 144 pitches, picked up the win after giving up three runs on four hits in nine innings of work.
Madisyn Clement may not have been as overpowering as her counterpart but the Lady Warriors ace was very effective. In five innings, Clement gave up only one run on three hits with five strikeouts and one walk.
That one run would come in the fourth.
Clement started off by striking out Sydney Broussard before giving up a walk to Beard. Clement then bounced back with a strikeout of Lexie Stine, but Gracie Devall finally got to Clement with an RBI-double into deep centerfield.
Northside Christian (17-2, 3-1) tied the game in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Brooke Stanford reached base after a hard-hit ball went through the legs of the Hackberry third baseman Zera Hanagriff then stepped up and laced a double which scored Stanford. A sacrifice bunt by Leah Monte advanced Hanagriff to third but that was as far as she got to scoring.
Beard retired the next three batters, including striking out two Lady Warriors.
Angel Allen took over for Clement starting in the sixth and kept the Lady Mustangs off-balanced for the next three innings. Allen retired the first nine straight batters she faced, including striking out three of the first five.
“I decided to change it up,” Hanagriff said. “It proved to be a good time to mix it up.”
Northside Christian had a chance to win the game in the bottom of the seventh.
Stanford led off with a single and then moved to second on a ground ball infield single by Hanagriff. That gave the Lady Warriors the winning run on second base with no outs but the home team couldn’t get a run home.
Monte popped up her sacrifice bunt attempt, Kathryn Zaunbrecher struck out, and Meghan Jones flied out to end the inning.
After both teams went three-up and three-down in the eighth, Hackberry went ahead in the ninth.
Broussard led off with a single and advanced to third on back-to-back sacrifice bunts. The Lady Mustangs then broke the game open as Devall hit a powerful RBI double just out of reach of Clement, who had moved to right field in the sixth inning.
“That was the game changer,” Hanagriff said.
After Olyvia LaBore was hit by a pitch, both Devall and LaBore would score moments later on a bloop double into shallow right field by Jeanne Trahan.
Hackberry (14-2, 4-1) would head to the bottom of the ninth with a comfortable three-run lead.
“We were hoping to just get one across there but it’s always nice to get more,” Little said.
Those extra runs would be needed.
Beard walked the first two batters she faced in the bottom of the ninth and leadoff hitter Zoie Hanagriff advanced to third base on a pass ball. Hanagriff and Stanford scored two batters later on an error by the Hackberry first baseman, who couldn’t handle the throw from the shortstop.
With the tying run on base, and darkness quickly settling in, Beard managed to get out of the jam by getting the next two batters to fly out and groundout.
Allen earned the loss after giving up three runs on three hits with three strikeouts in four innings of work.
Despite a hard-fought defeat, Hanagriff admitted that both teams could see each other once again at the Fast Pitch 56. This explained why he wasn’t devastated by his team’s defeat on Thursday.
“I look at it as a blessing in disguise for down the road,” Hanagriff said. “It is hard to beat a team three times. I don’t mind splitting with them now. We will take the other win later down the road.”