DAILY LEADER / MARTY ALBRIGHT / Lawrence County catcher Alexsundria Thomas loses control of the ball as she prepares to make the play at home on Quitman runner Mallory Lee Friday night.
DAILY LEADER / MARTY ALBRIGHT / Lawrence County catcher Alexsundria Thomas loses control of the ball as she prepares to make the play at home on Quitman runner Mallory Lee Friday night.

Lady Cougars oust Quitman

Published 2:00am Sunday, April 27, 2014

MONTICELLO-It took a very long night of fastpitch softball action to accomplish it, but the Lawrence County Lady Cougars closed out the first round of the 4A fastpitch playoffs Friday by beating Quitman 7-2 in the deciding game of a best-of-three series.

Quitman forced the deciding third game by beating Lawrence County 5-4 in Game Two of the series. Game Two started at 5 p.m. Friday, and didn’t end until after 9 o’clock. Lawrence County entered Friday with a 1-0 lead in the series, having won at Quitman on Thursday, by a score of 7-1.

With the series win, Lawrence County improved to 22-4 on the season, and will face Poplarville in second-round action, which begins Monday. The Lady Cougars are under the guidance of coach Mark Howard, while Howard’s wife, Meleah, is out on maternity leave.

“It was great to win this series,” said Mark Howard. “Going this deep into the playoffs is sort of uncharted territory for this program in modern times. I thought the girls handled the pressure of a playoff situation pretty well.

“I was especially proud of the way we played in that third game. To have lost a close game two that we thought we should have won, our girls didn’t panic. They came back and played a very good game three.”

With the deciding game scoreless in the bottom of the third, Lawrence County scored its first 2 runs on a strikeout/wild pitch. After that, a Zun Thomas double and a Jamie Martin single produced a third run in the frame.

In the fifth inning, Alyssa Pendergrass singled and stole second, and was delivered by a Zun Thomas RBI single. Down 4-0, Quitman clawed back into the game with 2 runs in the top of the sixth, but LCHS put the game away with 3 more in the bottom of the inning, courtesy of 3 bases on balls.

Elizabeth Smith pitched all 3 games of the series, and did Quitman’s Abigail Toomey. In the third game, Smith scattered 6 hits and struck out 4, while allowing only 1 free base. Zun Thomas’ 2 hits led the Lady Cougars. Pendergrass, Martin, and Cheyenne Long each had 1.

Glenella Odom was Quitman’s hitting star with 2 hits, including a double. Pitcher Toomey also had a double, and gave the Panthers a solid effort on the mound.

The Lady Cougars had a shot a closing out the series in two games, but a series of miscues allowed Quitman to extend the series to a third game. Quitman got 9 hits and benefited from 6 LCHS errors in the game. The field was littered with Lady Panther baserunners throughout.

“We didn’t play an awful game,” Howard said, “but it was a frustrating game. A lot of little things didn’t go our way, whether it was a bobble defensively, or an ill-timed poor at-bat. We had our chances, but didn’t quite get it done.”

Jazmin Thomas and Jamie Martin each had 2 hits for LCHS. Alyssa Pendergrass and Callie Fortenberry also had hits. The Lady Cougars had the potential tying and winning runs in scoring position when a groundout ended the game.

At Quitman on Thursday, the Lady Cougars got off to a bit of a slow start, trailing 1-0 through 3 innings. After that, however, Lawrence County had its way, outscoring Quitman 7-0 over the final 4 innings. Pitcher Elizabeth Smith retired 12 of 15 Quitman batters over the final 4 frames.

Alyssa Pendergrass and Jazmin Thomas led LCHS with 2 hits each. Jamie Martin had a double and a sacrifice fly. Tiera Collins and Callie Fortenberry also had hits.

“I thought we were a little tentative early in game one,” Coach Mark Howard said. “That’s understandable. That’s understandable. Our girls hadn’t been in a playoff situation before. They battled through it and played well in the latter half of the game.”

Lawrence County will host Poplarville Monday evening. The series will shift to Poplarville on Tuesday for Game Two and, if necessary, Game Three.