HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL: Lady Bronchos’ rally falls short

HERMLEIGH Throughout the postseason, the Odessa High softball team was the team who seemed to find a way back.

This time, however, the game simply got away.

After watching the Lady Bronchos erase a five-run deficit in the fifth inning, Haslet Eaton surged ahead with an 11-run sixth inning to turn a close game into a 24-8 victory in a Class 6A regional semifinal game Saturday at Lady Cardinal Field.

“First off, I think Eaton is a really good team and they have a tough lineup,” Odessa High head coach Rachel Pena said. ““We just didn’t make the plays we needed to defensively and they hurt us with big shots that trickled into a lot of runs in the sixth and seventh innings.”

The signs that the game would be a roller-coaster affair came early.

After Eaton’s Ashlynn Walker reached on a two-out single, Jaden Middlebrook lined a single to the outfield.

When Walker tried to advance to third on the throw, the ball ended up in the Odessa High dugout and she came around to score.

The Lady Bronchos answered quickly as Skylar Herrera hit an opposite-field home run in the bottom of the inning to tie the game.

The Lady Eagles kept their bats going strong the next three innings while the Lady Bronchos struggled defensively.

Eaton added two runs in the second, one in the third and two in the fourth to build a five-run lead.

The Lady Eagles got two more runners on in the fifth inning but pitcher Sierra Camacho was able to work her way out of the jam to keep the game at 6-1.

That set the stage for another Odessa High two-out rally.

Herrera scored on a controversial play the get the things started.

Then, with the bases loaded, a pop fly from Abigale Rayos that would have ended the inning landed right in front of the third baseman to score two runs.

Christabelle Aguirre then lined a single to right field to score two more runs, followed by Noeli Suarez’s two-run home run.

Three swings of the bat and the five-run deficit turned into a two-run lead.

“We just knew we couldn’t give up,” Herrera said. “Our pitchers in the circle told us to keep fighting because we were still in it and we knew had to back up our pitcher with some runs.”

But the momentum swung quickly back in the other direction.

Eaton’s first five batters of the sixth inning reached base before Odessa High recorded an out. After RBI singles from both Walker and Middlebrook, Courtney Blankenship’s two-run single gave the Lady Eagles a 10-8 lead they would not relinquish.

Eaton recorded 20 hits on the afternoon and kept the flurry coming as Odessa High couldn’t get out of the inning.

When the dust settled, Eaton had scored 11 runs, and then added seven more in the seventh for the final score.

“We knew that Odessa High was going to put up a good fight because they had come back several times,” Eaton head coach Lynn Rottman said. “Our team has fought all year long and they showed a lot of character coming back today.”

It was a tough way for the season to end for the Lady Bronchos, who held their heads high.

“It just showed the fight that they had all year long,” Pena said. “We knew it was going to be a battle and a fight and I’m proud of them for showing that all season.”