Plainview a win from state; Sulphur alive; Kingston out
SULPHUR — It wasn't always easy, but Plainview coach Alicia Foster didn't care.
At the end of the day, her Indians got the job done, earning a 5-4 win over Kingston before topping host Sulphur 5-3 to emerge from Thursday's 3A regional softball action as the frontrunner to earn a trip to the state tournament.
"The girls played well," Foster said. "You play for games like that, and the girls showed up."
Plainview got big contributions from the entire lineup in both contests, and showed an ability to play small ball, scoring three of its five runs against Kingston on sacrifice flies, while the hero of the game, outfielder Makalyn Gerken, brought home the winning run after drawing a bases-loaded walk with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning.
"When one was down, the other eight picked her up," Foster said.
The team also saw the return of a familiar face in the circle in key moments. With the pressure mounting, Jade Southerland, a year removed from surgery on her throwing arm, entered as a pitcher late in both contests, giving up no runs in her relief appearances.
"We had pitched her for two innings against Pauls Valley Tuesday to see if she was ready, and she was," Foster said. "Getting her experience in there at crucial times was a big help."
The biggest contribution of all came in the third inning of the win over Sulphur. With the Plainview leading 1-0, the Indians took advantage of some Bulldog defensive miscues to give Tiphani Napier an opportunity with the bases loaded.
Napier came through in a big way for Plainview, driving home three runs with a bases-clearing triple, pushing the Indians' lead to four and shifting momentum in a way that Sulphur couldn't recover from.
"We were trying to make other outs, when all we had to throw to first," Sulphur coach Heath Gilbert said. "We played too scared early in the game.
"We can't do that, we have to come and compete."
The loss was a big blow to the Lake Country Conference champions, who must now win three games today to advance to the state tournament.
"The season's not over," Gilbert said. "We've got to win those three games; it's tough, but it's been done before."
For Kingston, a team that entered the regional tournament on a red-hot roll after topping Davis in the district playoffs, the season is over after taking its second loss of the day to Coalgate in a 9-6 decision.
It was the first game of the season which Mikayla Wells did not start for the Redskins. Wells, one of the top pitchers in the area, had struggled with a rib injury sustained in the Davis series last week.
"We tried to get her to a chiropractor, other things, but we just needed a little bit more time," Kingston coach Mark Wells said. "After the first one, I knew if she threw again today there would be no chance she could go (Friday)."
The Redskins fell behind by as much as 9-2 in the game against Coalgate, before rallying back to within three.
"I was proud of them all year, and I was proud of what they did today," Wells said. "They competed and fought, all the way to the last out."
Sulphur will face Coalgate at noon today, before the winner of that contest advances to the final against Plainview at 2 p.m. Should the Indians lose the 2 p.m. game, another would be played at 4 p.m.