AP NEWS

FBCA girls open TAPPS softball playoffs with 16-7 win over Northland Christian

May 9, 2019

HOUSTON - Most of the time, a 3-0 deficit in fastpitch softball, even if early in the contest, is great cause for concern.

But that concern is magnified when the 3-0 deficit appears in a state playoff contest.

But for Pasadena-First Baptist Christian Academy’s team, such a predicament was nothing more than a bump in the road on their way to the second round of the TAPPS playoffs.

The Lady Warriors took advantage of wildness on the mound, while enjoying 12 strikeouts from their arms in Lauren Fitch and Ali Dutton as FBCA defeated Northland Christian 16-7 to win the Area title at the Lynn Kercheval Softball Park Monday night.

FBCA, which finished second in their district, used a five-run rally in the third inning to erase that 3-0 deficit, before delivering the knockout punch in the fifth when the team paraded 12 batters to the plate, scoring eight runs.

FBCA probably set a school record when it stole a whopping 20 bases with almost all of the thefts leading to an eventual score.

“It’s a pretty big win. Our team really got hyped around the third inning and we just brought it all to the table and didn’t leave anything behind,” said infielder Sara Bailey, who in the leadoff position scored twice and notched an RBI.

What set the wheels in motion to starting the 16-run avalanche?

Would you believe a dropped third strike? Clean-up hitter Jessica Rushing struck out and took off for first when the catcher couldn’t handle strike three.

They got Rushing at first, but the throw down to the bag enabled Alex Garcia to score, before Fitch also scored when Northland Christian began to self-destruct.

Cailee Lovercheck kicked off the inning with a double and freshman Hannah Gabbard reached on a bunt single. Bailey was hit by a pitch, loading them up for the meat of the Lady Warriors’ order.

That’s when Garcia singled to make it 3-1, a Fitch fielder’s choice scored the second run and Bailey stole home, tying the game. Then came the dropped third strike and FBCA never trailed again.

Then from the fifth inning on, starting and losing pitcher Brittany Sheffield struggled with her control.

With no walks in the opening four innings, she walked 10 over the final three frames. Of that total, seven eventually scored, six alone during the eight-run fifth frame.

Tack on a hit batter in the seventh who eventually made the complete tour of the bases and Sheffield’s wildness reached nightmarish proportions.

FBCA only held a 7-6 advantage in total hits but several did some major damage.

Codie Snelson belted a two-RBI single during the eight-run fifth, Garcia had a two-RBI triple to finish the damage in the fifth and Fitch connected for an inside-the-park two-run homer in the seventh.

Five of Northland Christian’s seven runs were unearned, sending a signal on what FBCA must do before its next playoff game and that’s to get better defensively.

Sheffield accounted for three of Northland Christian’s six hits, including a first-inning triple.

But Fitch and Dutton also forced their opponents to strand five in scoring position. Those 12 strikeouts, with five of them coming consecutively, were a big reason for accomplishing that. Defensively, the team turned a double play in the second inning.

ravery@hcnonline.com