LONE GROVE — Lone Grove now finds itself in the unenviable position of needing to win three games in a row today after the Longhorns fell to the Cache Bulldogs 8-2 in regional softball action Thursday at Glen Wendt Field.
The Longhorns earlier defeated Dickson, and Cache beat Byng. The Dickson Comets were eliminated by the Pirates 3-1 to end their season.
The Longhorns will play an elimination game today at noon against Byng (15-18). The winner of that game will then need to beat the Bulldogs twice to advance to the state tournament.
"It's always tough to drop that last game, but someone has to move on, and someone else has to go home," Dickson coach Trent Patterson said. "We had a good year, and I am proud of the girls. But today I believe they just ran out of gas. We have so many younger players. I could tell the pressure started to get to them. Nerves is something that can take over in the playoffs, and I believe that's what happened to us today."
Dickson finished its season at 13-19.
Cache, 27-10 and ranked No. 10 in Class 4A, played flawless in the field and took advantage of six Lone Grove errors to put the Bulldogs one win from the state tournament. The Bulldogs got a run in the bottom of the first inning when Lauren Mason reached on a Longhorn miscue, stole second and scored on a single down the rightfield line by Cache pitcher Randi Hamilton.
The big inning came in the second for Cache. Alyson Exhiti drew a walk from Lone Grove pitcher Madi Baughman. Singles by Hollie Johnson, Lauren Mason and Kaylyn Smith mixed with three more Longhorn errors allowed four Bulldogs to cross the plate for a 5-0 lead. Cache added one in the fifth frame to increase its lead to 6-0.
Lone Grove, 29-10 and ranked No. 7 in Class 4A, had its one big inning in the top of the sixth. Haley McCutchen singled to center and Cheyanna Stepp moved her to second base with a sacrifice bunt. Raley Long hammered a double to the gap in right-centerfield to score McCutchen, and a single to left by Ashton Johnson brought Long around to score.
Cache scored two in the bottom of the sixth stanza for an 8-2 advantage, and the Longhorns were retired in order in the top of the seventh.
Hamilton helped her own cause by going 2-for-4 with one RBI for the Bulldogs, and Mason was 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
Long was a perfect 3-for-3, including a double, with an RBI and a run scored for the Longhorns, and McCutchen was 2-for-4 with a run scored.
Hamilton recorded the win in the circle for Cache, and Baughman took the loss for Lone Grove.
Longhorn coach Jimmy Miller was unavailable for comment following the loss.
Lone Grove 14, Dickson 2
Haley McCutchen went 3-for-6, blasting a two-run homer over the left-centerfield fence to lead Lone Grove to a 14-2 win over Dickson in the first round of regional play Thursday. The Longhorns pounded out 18 hits against Comet pitcher Madison Rozzell, who went the distance and took the loss.
Raley Long, Alli Bolles, Madi Baughman and McCutchen all had multi-hit games for Lone Grove. Baughman picked up the win, giving up two runs on five hits, while striking out five and walking one.
Lone Grove took a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning, as a young Dickson team struggled to settle in.
Rozzell hit a liner to the wall for a double and scored moments later for the Comets. Jaci Battles scored Dickson's other run of the game on an RBI single by Abby McLaughlin, who was injured on a defensive play in the game.