SULPHUR — Perfection spun out of Skyler Mize’s right hand.
Like a table-tennis player with agile wrists, Mize’s pitches danced alongside the music, each confined to its own half-inning.
While Plainview put the ball in play, Sulphur second baseman Bekkah Turner turned two inning-ending double plays to preserve a scoreless game, a contest Mize compared to a state-tournament game.
The band’s music matched the football players’ gleeful “She’s a freshman!” chants, which proceeded run-scoring hits by Kady Lynch and Abby Beck, insurance runs in Sulphur’s 4-0 win Tuesday at Sulphur.
Sulphur 11-3, 3-1 District 4A-1) coach Heath Gilbert defined perfection by the zero on the scoreboard.
“Mize threw unbelieveable tonight,” he said. “Everybody always asks me, ‘How you y’all win when your pitchers don’t throw real hard?’ You don’t have to throw real hard. You just have to spin it well and hit your spots. She did everything perfect tonight.”
Five of the first nine Plainview (8-3, 3-1) batters hit the ball back up the middle. Leah Selensky hit a one-out single.
The next hitter, Rylee Keith, drew the first of three intentional walks. Based on a summer-league game when Keith tattooed the ball against Mize, Gilbert determined that he wouldn’t give the Plainview junior a chance.
“It wasn’t a very good decision by me to throw Skyler tonight because they saw her this summer,” Gilbert said. “I’ve got three (pitchers). I knew I wasn’t going to pitch to Rylee. Today the wind started howling in. I thought, ‘You know, we might as well as pitch to Sami. Maybe we’ll get some fly balls.” Skelly flew out to Bivens in the fifth. “She’s a great hitter, but today she didn’t have it.”
Two batters following Keith’s at-bat in the opening inning, Halee Womack singled to center field. Ashlie Hedemann fired home, forcing Lynch to move slightly to her right. She trapped the ball against her body, transferred it to her right hand, then crouched down and to her left for the play at the plate.
The Lady Indians’ base runner’s slide came three inches shy of the plate. Lynch then applied the tag.
Meanwhile, Jada Phelps organized the band members’ attendance for a game with first place at stake.
Holding drumsticks in his hand after the game, Jacob Freeman said the band provided a lot of spirit.
“It was pretty cool to actually have the band come up here,” he said. “I’m just glad to be a part of (it).”
Mize described her classmates’ presence.
“It was amazing,” Mize said of the atmosphere. “It was cool to have the band play. There were a lot of fans. It made you feel good about yourself.”
Turner began the inning-ending twin killings in the third and the sixth.
Mize said she could definitely feel the momentum change.
In the decisive home half of the sixth, Payton Szalaj singled. Makella Mobly fell behind 0-2 before dropping down a bunt, which Plainview pitcher Hanna Beth Matherly fielded. The ball deflected off first baseman McKenzie Williams’ glove as she fully extended her left arm to her left and slightly above her head.
Sulphur had two runners in scoring position.
“Mobly did an unbelievable job,” Gilbert said.
Savannah Ashford drew a walk to load the bases. Ashley Bivens grounded into a fielder’s choice; Szalaj scored. Lynch grounded a single past Plainview shortstop Sami Skelly. Abby Beck pulled two-run double to right field.
In the top of the seventh, Mize induced groundouts from Emily Morgan and Skelly.
Ashford caught Selensky’s pop-up just in front of the dugout railing.
“I wasn’t worried because I always have my defense to back me up,” Mize said.
Gilbert took the bat out of Plainview junior Rylee Keith’s hands, issuing three intentional walks to her.
In Skelly’s second at-bat, Mize fell behind 2-0. Skelly reached on an IBB.
Plainview coach Tim Wade told his players it’s a compliment when a player is walked intentionally.
“It was fun,” Wade said. “It was a good game. Sulphur, they’re a good squad. We had opportunity, opportunity several times. … You’ve got to give it up to Sulphur.
“We always know they’re either going to walk Sami or Rylee or both. I was pleased: Leah Selensky did a good job. We just have to understand that if we get opportunities, don’t squander it. That’s kind of our Achilles’ heel this game. … We’re alright.”