East Central's Cinderella run ends in LSC Championship Game

DURANT – East Central’s magical run in the Lone Star Conference Softball Championships ended on a sour note Saturday as Angelo State, behind the pitching of April Haywood and speed on the bases, knocked off the Lady Tigers 9-1 on the run rule in 4 ½ innings at the D urant Multi-Sports Complex.

ECU, which saw its season come to a close at 34-21, managed just two hits – a double by Emily Kennemer and a single from Shelby Simmons - off Haywood, who worked the first four innings for the win and upped her season record to 16-4.

The Lady Tigers, the No. 4 seed out of the LSC North, finished at 3-2 in the tourney with both losses coming to the Rambelles. Angelo State finished with a perfect 4-0 mark in the event and won the tournament for the third straight year.

ECU’s lone run was unearned in the second inning as Kennemer, who nearly cranked out a homer before settling for the double off the glove of the left fielder and wall, advanced to third on Kasey Barber’s sacrifice bunt. Courtney Gaines struck out on a ball in the dirt, but reached first after the catcher’s wild throw sailed down the right field line, allowing Kennemer to cross the plate and tie it up at 1-1.

Meanwhile, the Rambelles (43-12) took a 1-0 lead in the first off Alix Dean’s sacrifice fly before breaking the game open with a six-run, six-hit second inning with the help of a pair of Lady Tiger errors.

ECU, which had just one error through the first four tournament games, was plagued by three in Saturday’s contest.

Brittany Astle’s no-out, two-run homer triggered that six-run uprising off losing pitcher Wanda Malone, who dropped to 15-12 on the season. Despite the loss, Malone had an impressive run in the tournament, posting a 2-1 record, which was good enough to land a spot on the all-tournament team.

She was joined on the all-tournament team by fellow Lady Tigers Simmons and Cassandra Nordie. Simmons batted .500 for the tournament (7-for-14) with a double, four runs scored and a pair of stolen bases. She was also errorless and showed great defensive range with plays in the hole from her shortstop position throughout the tournament. She was credited with 15 putouts and eight assists in the five games. Cassandra Nordie, an outfielder, batted .429 with a homer in the tournament.

The Rambelles, who compiled 10 hits in the contest, used their speed to swipe seven bases, which set a school record for a season at 136. Kaycee Taylor went 3-for-3 with a double and two runs batted in for ASU. Astle was 2-for-2 with her third homer of the year and leadoff hitter Sarah DeMoss went 2-for-2 with two RBIs and scored twice. DeMoss stole three bases on the day.

Gaines relieved Malone after 1.1 innings. Malone and Gaines each surrendered five hits. Malone was charged with giving up four earned runs while Gaines allowed two earned scores in 2.2 innings.

Other than the one run, the Lady Tigers did not advance a runner past second base.

The game marked the career finale for ECU’s lone senior in All-LSC North Second Team Second Baseman Hillary Hughes, who had the game-winning hit in the Lady Tigers’ 2-1 come-from-behind win over Central Oklahoma on Friday night. That walk-off single landed ECU in the title game against ASU and eliminated UCO.

ECU, which hadn’t made it to the LSC Tournament since 1998, played in the finals for the first time.

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