Down by one, Kirk Allen’s message to his team was to just score one run. But as the Crawford head coach was waving the second run, and game winning run, around third a few minutes later, it almost felt like déjà vu.
“Actually I had a dream about it. It was really weird,” Allen said still in shock after the Lady Pirates’ 7-6 victory over Axtell in the one-game Class 2A regional semifinal contest. “I had a dream two days ago that we were going to score on a bunt and they were going to overthrow first and we’d score the winning run in the bottom of the last inning. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s fixing to happen.’ It was almost surreal.”
Crawford hadn’t led all game. Axtell got out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first as a pair of batters were walked and later scored off a throwing error to first base by Crawford’s shortstop Cece Villa. The Lady Pirates tied things back up in the bottom of the second off a sacrifice fly by Kinnidy Markum and an RBI single up the middle by Avery Ward.
That was all the Lady Pirates were able to put on the board for the next two innings as they stranded four runners in the third and fourth innings. Meanwhile, Axtell kept tacking on runs.
Destiny Sanchez broke the tie with a solo home run over the left-field wall in the third. An inning later, Anna Powell knocked a run in before the Lady Longhorns plated two more runs in the fifth.
While Crawford struggled against Axtell pitcher Kathryn Reed with six strikeouts through the first five innings, the Lady Pirates’ defense committed some errors that allowed the Lady Longhorns to put more runs on the board.
“We didn’t play a very good game,” Allen said. “I think we had five errors, at least. We haven’t done that all year. I’m hoping that’s it because going forward that’s not going to cut it.”
Heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, Axtell had a 6-2 lead over Crawford. Peyton Elmore led things off for the Lady Pirates with a walk, stole second and advanced to third off a wild pitch before she scored off an RBI single by Cambree Aguirre.
With the deficit cut to three, the Crawford defense took the field and shut out the Lady Longhorns for the first inning since the second frame. The Lady Pirates built off of that defensive success to add some more runs to the board in the bottom of the inning.
Ward started things off by reaching first off a walk and later came around to score off an RBI single by Elmore. With two runners on, Joani Kolscheen cranked a sacrifice fly to deep center field to score another and cut Axtell’s lead to one. A strikeout ended the inning and left Crawford desperate for one more run.
Another defensive stand by Crawford kept the Lady Longhorns off the board for the second consecutive inning. After Aguirre went 5 1/3 innings to start things off for the Lady Pirates, Makey Dunbar came on in relief and finished out the game. Through 2 2/3 innings, Dunbar struck out three.
“Cambree’s been our work horse all year long and has done a good job,” Allen said. “Tonight she struggled a little. It was nothing bad. I just thought we needed to make a chance, and it’s only a one-game playoff. We had Makey, so I went to her and she did a good job. We made a couple of mistakes behind her, but overall she pitched great. We have to play better defense from here on out.”
It all came down to the bottom of the seventh for Crawford.
All week long, the Lady Pirates had been working on their small ball, bunting for runner advancement and base hits.
“We knew Kathryn Reed is a good pitcher, so if we started striking out a whole bunch we’d have to put the ball in play,” Allen said. “It was probably my fault not getting the ball in play sooner. Finally a coach talked me into it because in the sixth and seventh we started doing it. That was our chance to get back in the game.”
When Aguirre stepped to the plate to lead things off for Crawford, the Lady Pirates had all the momentum. Aguirre singled with a well-placed grounder up the middle to get on first with no outs.
“Let’s just get somebody on base, get them over and see if we can score them,” Allen said. “If we could get a run and get it all tied up, I felt like the momentum was with us. Makey had only pitched a couple of innings. (Reed) had gone longer. I felt like we’d have all the momentum if we got one run.”
Crawford got that one run when things got crazy as Markum stepped up to bat next. Markum laid down a bunt that went between the pitcher’s circle and first base. Reed looked over at Axtell’s first baseman, Kaylee Hudson, who looked back at Reed while standing on first base. With no one making a move toward the ball, Aguirre rounded second and headed for third. The throw to tag her out was a little off target, and Aguirre sprinted for home to tie things up.
In all that madness, Markum advanced to second.
With no outs and Grace Powell (who came in for Markum) on second, Crawford went small ball again when Dunbar bunted down the third base line. Axtell’s third baseman fielded the bunt but overthrew first base. And Allen waved Powell around third and all the way to home as the run clinched the one-run victory for Crawford.
“I can’t believe that just happened,” Allen said. “That’s softball. You just have to keep playing. You catch a break every now and then. We knew if we put the ball in play against them then we might have some chances to make some plays and we did. It’s pretty cool.”