DURANT – East Central’s magical softball season was nearly over before a string of three singles, including Hillary Hughes’ game-winner, lifted the Lady Tigers to a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Central Oklahoma and into the championship game of the Lone Star Conference Tournament on Friday night.
Trailing 1-0 and the first two batters retired in the seventh, Kasey Barber drew a walk on a 3-2 count, Cassandra Nordie slapped a single down the left field line off a 3-0 delivery and Courtney Gaines also singled down the left field line to score Barber and tie it up at 1-all.
Then on a 2-1 count, Hughes hit a bloop-single to center, just in front of diving center fielder Kayce Raines as Nordie crossed the plate from third base for the winning score.
ECU, which improved to 34-20, lost its first game of the tournament earlier in the day to Angelo State, 4-1.
Now the Lady Tigers, 3-1 in the tourney, will face ASU at noon Saturday for the tournament crown. ECU must beat the Rambelles twice to claim the title in the double-elimination event. ASU, 3-0 in the tournament, needs only one victory over the Lady Tigers for the championship.
ECU, the No. 4 seed out of the LSC North, is seeking its first postseason tournament title.
Lady Tiger junior right-hander Wanda Malone (15-11) was solid in the circle as she scattered eight hits, walked two and struck out two. The only run she surrendered came in the third off an RBI single by Kacie Edwards.
UCO’s Molly Shivers (15-12) had a two-hit shutout going until the seventh. She allowed just five hits and one walk while fanning five.
Cassandra Nordie was ECU’s only multiple-hitter as she went 2-for-3. Edwards and Brittany Weaver collected two hits each for the Bronchos, the No. 2 seed from the LSC North.
Once again the Lady Tigers played airtight defense as they were errorless on the day. In fact, they have only one error in the four tournament games.
ECU has beaten UCO three out of four games this season, including twice in this tourney.
Angelo State 4, ECU 1 (Winners’ Bracket Finals)
The Rambelles received a solo-homer from Kaycee Taylor to lead off the bottom of the second and added three more runs off three hits in the third to hand the Lady Tigers their initial loss of the tournament.
ECU actually out-hit ASU 7-6, but the Rambelles stranded just five baserunners, compared to the Lady Tigers’ 10.
ASU starter Chelsea Nelson (24-8) worked 5.1 innings for the win and April Haywood came on in relief to get her first career save.
ECU starter Randee Crockett was charged with the loss after lasting just 2.2 innings and allowing all four earned runs off four hits with a walk. Malone was solid in 3.1 innings of relief as she allowed only two hits and one walk while fanning two.
Three Lady Tigers – Shelby Simmons, Barber and Cassandra Nordie – had two hits each, but ECU could only push one run across the plate in the game.
That score came in the fourth when Gaines singled down the right field line, scoring Barber from second base. Barber had reached with a one-out single through the left side of the infield and moved up to second on Cassandra Nordie’s single to center.
Alix Dean hit a two-run double in the third for ASU and Kacie Easley, who went 2-for-2 and was hit by a pitch, added a run-scoring single in that same frame. Easley was the Rambelles’ only multiple-hitter.