The Ardmore Lady Tigers dropped a hard-fought 5-4 decision to Pauls Valley Monday in their opening softball game of the season. 

The Tigers struggled defensively and committed seven infield errors. Pauls Valley played small-ball much of the game, and Ardmore could not get the job done defensively against the speedy Lady Panthers.

Were it not for the errors, it would have been a great match-up between two solid pitchers in the circle. Pauls Valley’s Kaylie Upton gave up seven hits, fanned nine and walked three with 113 pitches. Her change-up proved to be a difficult pitch for the Lady Tigers to hit. 

Ardmore freshman, Lexi Duff, had a fine outing in her first high school start. She surrendered eight hits, struck out eight and did not issue a free pass in her 108 pitches.

“That was a pretty good start for Lexi,” Ardmore coach Charli Crawford said of her sister. “She is a great competitor, and she just continued to battle in spite of some of the things happening defensively for us. I really thought we would be better on our defense at this time because of all the practice time we spend on it.

“But one thing you have to remember is that these girls are still relatively young in so many areas. When I came on-board, they had not had all the experience during summer play they needed in order to be competitive. I know that will get better, because they want to improve. I was extremely proud of the way they played as a team and came back to tie the game late. They have shown great improvement over last year’s team.”

Ardmore (0-1) scored one in the bottom of the first when Kenysha Noland reached on a bunt-single, stole second and came home on a single to left by Madison Moore.

Pauls Valley (1-0) struck for two in the top of the third after Duff had put them down in order the first two innings. Miranda Carnell reached on an error, as did Aylin Nunez. Two more miscues allowed both to score when Skye Johnson reached on an error, giving the Lady Panthers a 2-1 lead.

The Lady Tigers knotted the game in the bottom of the third. Moore singled to center, and Upton walked Brittany Harrison. After a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, Bayleigh Howell lined a single to center to score Moore.

“We are hitting the ball really well, and I was pleased with our getting four runs against this pitcher,” Crawford said. “We have played them twice in close games this summer, and we competed well against them again tonight. Madison had a solid game at the plate , and Kenysha did a great job in the lead-off spot. We just need to get better defensively.”

Three infield hits by the Lady Panthers and another Lady Tiger error allowed Pauls Valley to plate two in the top of the fifth. The Lady Panthers did not record an RBI in their five runs. All runs scored were on Ardmore errors.

The Lady Tigers rallied for two in the bottom of the sixth. Katy Cronemeyer was hit by Upton, and Taygan Marris came on to pinch-run. Kenysha Noland reached on a bunt-single, and a passed ball put the runners at second and third. Duff hit a blooper to shallow right that resulted in a Lady Panther error that brought Marris home. A subsequent throwing error on the same play brought Noland home to tie the game at 4-4.

In the top of the seventh, Molly Long lined a single to left with one out. She took second on a passed ball and third on a throwing error that allowed her to score the winning run.

Long was 3-for-4 with one run for Pauls Valley, and Nunez was 2-for-4 with two runs.

Moore was 2-for-4 with one RBI and one run for Ardmore, and Kenysha Noland was 3-for-4 with two runs.

Ardmore travels to the Tuttle tournament starting Friday.