ODESSA — An explosive nine-run seventh inning broke a 5-5 tie Monday at Odessa College as Big Spring shelled Fort Stockton, 14-5 to advance to area round of the playoffs.
Offensive output was a concern for BSHS Head Softball Coach John Sparks as he prepared his squad for postseason play, but the Lady Steers responded when it was needed most.
Tied at 1-1 after a RBI double by Mercedes Ruiz sent Ayana Gomez home in the top of the second, Big Spring's lineup took charge in the top of the third.
Lizzy Fleeson, Valerie Goodblanket and pitcher Logan Yarbar had back-to-back-to-back singles to load the bases with black and gold. Haley Dimidjian capitalized on the situation, belting out a single of her own and picking up three RBI.
The Prowlers had Dimidjian caught in a rundown between first and second, but she would make it safely back to first base, but not before all three base runners ahead of her scored, as BSHS took a 4-1 lead. With Angelina Castillo in scoring position, Gomez laid down a RBI bunt to add another run before the inning came to a close.
Sparks credits his team for paying attention to the details and working as a unit to bring runs in.
“Small ball,” Sparks explained. “It wins games for you. That's probably the best small ball game I've seen played in a long time. Our girls stepped it up. There were some innings that didn't work for us. I knew after scouting Fort Stockton, they got down when the ball started going where it wasn't supposed to go — the errors. They made errors with the small ball. So, that was part of the game plan coming in. That's how they got beat by Presidio.”
Fort Stockton battled back, scoring four runs over three innings to knot the game up at 5-5. It was beginning to look like a stalemate when the Lady Steers' broke the game open their final at-bats.
Dimidjian led off the seventh with a single, Castillo reached on an error and Gabi Torres bunted to load the bases. Gomez followed suit and her bunt was bobbled by the Prowler pitcher, allowing her to reach first safely and Dimidjian to score. Ruiz connected for a two-RBI single and Makenzie Roberts picked up her first base hit of the game to keep the bases loaded.
Up 8-5 with one out, Fleeson had a base hit, but Ruiz was thrown out at home for the second out. Goodblanket came through with a RBI single and Roberts scored on a wild pitch during Yarbar's at-bat.
Things were already out of control, but the Lady Steers kept piling it on.
Yarbar ripped a double, scoring Fleeson and Goodblanket. Dimidjian recorded her fourth RBI of the day with a double and Castillo added the final run with a RBI triple.
The beleaguered Prowlers went down in order to end the game.
“It's a great thing to see these ladies bounce back like they did in the seventh inning and play ball like they did,” Sparks added. “They're very capable. We didn't have many errors and that's the style of ball we're going to have to play from here on out.”
The victory was sweet for the Lady Steers and one Valerie Goodblanket doesn't take for granted.
“We knew coming into this game, we couldn't get big-headed,” Goodblanket said. “We couldn't sit there and tell ourselves 'Oh hey, we're in the playoffs, we can win any game we want'. The mindset was just play hard, play like we usually play and play calm. We were a little anxious because it was our first game, but once we had that first inning, we just calmed down and knew all we had to do was play ball.”
Next up for the Lady Steers will be a best-of-three series against a strong Andrews squad.
But Sparks isn't intimidated.
“Can we beat Andrews?,” Sparks asked rhetorically, “You know what, we can beat anybody on any given day. That's the way we're going to start looking at it right now. We're having fun and if anybody gets in our way, we're going to give them a battle.”
The Lady Steers will take the field against the Lady Mustangs on Friday at MUGGS Field in Midland. Game Two will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. and if necessary, Game Three will be held 30 minutes after Game One concludes.