Southerland helps lead Lady Blues to fourth round
For the third time in as many matchups in the playoffs, the Lady Blues softball team had to go to a decisive winner-take-all game. The do-or-die situation doesn't seem to bother Graham, as the team is a perfect 3-0 in Game 3's in the playoffs. After a loss in Game 2, sophomore pitcher Emma Southerland took the ball and performed like an upperclassman helping lead her team to a regional quarterfinal championship with a 3-0 win over Venus on Saturday. Southerland led the team by going 5 for 10 at the plate while seniors Aubree Beggs and Elizabeth Routon each had four hits in the series.
With the series victory, the Lady Blues advance to the regional semifinals for the second straight season. Second-ranked Bushland (32-4) awaits Graham in the fourth round after the Lady Falcons swept Monahans (4-3, 10-3) in two games. Bushland, who hasn't lost in two months, is one of the few schools in the entire state to feature both its softball and baseball squads still participating in playoffs. Sophomore pitcher Halle Lytal leads the team with 202 strikeouts and has accounted for a team-leading 14 home runs at the plate. Graham will have its hands full but the Lady Blues have faced adversity in each of the playoff series and is a team that has come through in the clutch against several quality opponents all season long. The Lady Blues have already defeated five teams that were ranked in the Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 4A poll at some point on the year. Graham's offense averages close to six runs per game and should be a test for the Lady Falcons who have given up 11 runs in five playoff games.
Graham 5, Venus 0
Southerland and Venus pitcher Kaylee Davis engaged in a pitchers duel for the majority of Game 3. However, the Lady Blues had several scoring chances throughout the early innings. A baserunner reached base in every inning of the contest but couldn't seem to come through with a runner in scoring position. Graham stranded 10 runners through the first six innings, but finally came through in the bottom of the fifth.
Nicole King reached on an infield single to leadoff the inning. Tatum Trester sacrificed the senior over the second with a bunt when Southerland singled to advance King to third. After an infield popup, it appeared the Lady Blues were going to strand another runner when King's heads-up base running loomed large. With two strikes to Sarah Bundrick, Davis' pitch got past the catcher and all the way to the backstop. King left third on first instinct and slid into home for the first run of the game, which proved to be the difference. The Lady Bulldogs threatened in the sixth by having runners on first and third with just one out. Southerland proceeded to get an infield popup to first baseman Elizabeth Routon and a fly out to right fielder Tatum Trester to keep the lead intact.
The Lady Blues built a 5-0 lead with four runs in the sixth to bust the game open. After one quick out, Maddie Morgan, Aubree Beggs and Routon all reached base to load the bases.
King and Southerland each were hit by a pitch to force in a run for a 3-0 lead. The biggest hit of the series came when sophomore Alex Husen stepped to the dish and smacked a two-strike offering up the middle for a two-run single.
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