WEST — Lorena senior Autumn Bell got another chance in the top of the seventh inning and made the most of it.
After Bell’s foul pop up popped out of a glove with two outs and the game tied in the seventh, she followed with a laser in the gap in right-center. Lady Leopards pitcher Kate Houser then smacked a single to right that scored Bell for the winning run in Lorena’s 5-4 triumph on the West Lady Trojans’ diamond on Tuesday night.
“They had a chance to catch that one to end the inning and gave (Bell) another shot and she delivered,” Lorena coach Steve Dolezel said.
The clutch piece of hitting by Bell and Houser not only gave Lorena the season sweep of district-rival West, it lifted the Lady Leopards (10-0 in 17-3A) to the district title.
Lorena led most of the way after leadoff hitter Ashlyn Wachtendorf walked, stole second and third and scored on a Bell sacrifice fly in the top of the first.
But West (8-2 in district with two loop games remaining) applied pressure with its offense throughout the game.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Lady Trojans put together a series of two-out hits to tie the game at four.
Designated player Cadence Hannah ripped a double in the gap that drove in Hannah Hlovenka from third and allowed Halley Maler to score from first and knot up the scoreboard.
“I was hoping we could get one more run or manufacture something,” West coach Guyla Smith said. “We were almost there, but we’re still in the learning process.”
Houser ended the West threat in the bottom of the sixth by striking out Lady Trojans leadoff hitter Maddie Honea looking.
In the bottom of the seventh, Houser struck out Hlovenka with a runner on second to end the game and finish off her complete-game effort in the circle.
Houser struck out six West batters, all in the final three innings.
“She got stronger,” Dolezel said. “She was hitting her spots all night. She had another pitch that we added kind of in the middle innings that kind of got them a little off balance. I asked her, ‘Can you throw that pitch?’ It’s not her changeup. Her off-speed is a little faster. It looks like something that she throws faster.”
West pitcher Kelcie Griffin went the distance in the circle and surrendered just six hits. She struck out one and issued three walks.
Bell and Houser combined for four of Lorena’s hits and three RBIs. Wachtendorf turned a pair of walks into two runs that helped Lorena push ahead, 3-1, after three innings.
“We know we’re going to be in a battle with West every time we play them just because they play good defense and they’re going to put the ball in play,” Dolezel said. “They make you put the ball in play too. If we get clutch hits, which did there in the seventh inning, we give ourselves a chance.”