After so many changes in UIL scheduling, the recent tumultuous weather made an even more decisive push on the District 20-4-A softball playoffs. The Little Cypress-Mauriceville Lady Bears were originally scheduled to play against Dayton Lady Broncos in Lumberton. High winds and thunderstorms reset the game to 4 p.m., Tuesday, at the LC-M Lady Bears diamond. The winner to face-off against District 17-4A champs of Elgin, which knocked out the Willis team in a round earlier this week. 

Coach Dena Adkins rounded out a solid first year with her Lady Bears in Bi-District action. The Region III 4-A players hit the field with a season record of 24-6 with four seniors taking starting positions. On Tuesday, they went head-to-head in a winner takes all game versus Dayton. The Broncs are headed up by Coach Daryl Bell, father of their star pitcher Hannah. 

The battle to climb higher into the playoffs, started with freshman LC-M pitcher Camrie Helm sending the Broncs Dyson to first base with a walk after two close calls on pitches. Helm struck out the second Dayton batter with the help of catcher Katye Harris’ stretch, reaching for the catch. She let a run slip by on a hit by Dayton where Broncs pitcher Bell helped get the first score of the game. 

The Lady Bears took a tough pinch at the top of the first inning but kept their spirits high for the team’s first at bat. Senior and honor roll student, Alyssa Breshears (third base and outfield player) came up as the lead out for the LC-M team. She worked up to a 2-2 count but was outed by Bell. 

First baseman Britni Collins took her turn next, with a one out count and was sent off with a high pitch strikeout. Catcher Katye Harris took her at bat with an 0-2 start but was optimistic since the Junior leads the 2008-2009 LC-M softball season in RBIs. However, the bottom of the first saw the Lady Bears striking out on their home field as the crowd of local Orange County fans voiced their opinions on the ability of the umpires.

With a score leaving the Lady Bears down one to zero, LC-M pitcher and senior Debra Hamor sent Dayton’s Kirkman out even after a low ball scurried to right field. Hamor’s powerful pitching torque sent several zingers past Dayton’s Hector leaving a count of 3-2 until a ground ball was hit to Bears second baseman Katie Harrell. She threw Hector out a first which left no Broncs on the mats at the top of the second inning. She also caught a first pitch hit from Broncos Entling to send the LC-M team back up to bat.
The bottom of the second inning saw the Lady Bears slide down with a one-two-three out succession at the hands of Dayton pitcher Bell.

With Helm still on the circle at the beginning of inning number three, the first batter was sent back to the dugout after a ground ball was snatched up by Lady Bears second baseman. After a couple of foul balls and a 2-2 count, Broncs Favala made an infield hit that was caught by LC-M short stop Harrell. Harrell had a tough time completing the out and this left a Dayton runner on first. Lady Bronco runners then made it to first (Favala) and second (Dyson) with a four pitch walk. 

Helm and the LC-M coaches called a time-out to discuss some controversy over the balls versus strikes ideas of the game. With Bell coming from the deck to the plate,  the next hit put the Lady Bears a point farther down as Dyson was run in.

Sophomore Kaycie Gunn came up as lead batter in the bottom of the third inning. Her out drew Julianne “Buster” Viator up next, then outfielder Madison Cole. Both were taken down after fighting through many pitches.

LC-M’s team changed up their pitching strategy with the fresh Erin May (senior) coming into play for the first time in the fourth inning. After striking out her first batter, May only allowed runners to advance to first and second bases. The Lady Bears Harrell caught pop-ups sent by Dayton’s Newman and Favala to get the play to the bottom of the fourth. 

Breshears was the batter up for LC-M  and had been the only player to hit any pitches from Broncs Bell thus far. She hit another grounder toward the pitching circle but was tagged at first base. Next up was first base player Britni Collins, who ended Bell’s perfect game with a walk. Harris, with a batting average of .385 and an RBI standing of 24 for the season,  followed with a hit to left field. The fly ball was caught and sent her out. Another hard working Lady Bears player, Delana Hamor, popped up a ball to the third baseline foul territory. Hamor holds a solid at bat average of .221 and is also a leader in RBIs. Her foul out pushed the game into the fifth inning.

Inning five was not only a play against Dayton but also against time. May ended up seeing the bases loaded after walking the fifth Lady Bronc at bat. A time-out was called by Dayton. The game continued with May getting ahead on Lady Broncs player Hector with a 1-2 count, then a third baseline shallow left ball brought two Dayton runners to home. The score jumped to 4-0 Dayton, but Hector’s press out at third base moved action to the bottom of the fifth.

Harrell’s second time at bat sent her out with a popped foul that was caught by Lady Broncs first baseman. LC-M’s Hamor then hit a shallow one to left field, caught by short stop Dyson for the second out. Lefty, Gunn, was calm at bat though she faced a heater thrown by Bell. Gunn holds an impressive .323 at bat, but was not able to connect with the ball and LC-M was sent in for the start of inning number six. 

Lady Bears made quick work of Dayton in the sixth inning with great catches on pop fly balls and a long ball to centerfield.
Viator was up first in the bottom of the inning with a hit way out to the third base area, and made a quick run to land on first. Right fielder and sophomore Cole made a hit and a move to first that pushed “Buster” Viator to second base. This play was the first time in the game that LC-M runners made it to second. Breshears hit a low pitch that sent the ball back up the center and pegged Bell on the neck. Lady Bears had runners at the corners when Breshears sped to take second and send “Buster” to third. With Harris at bat and 0 and 2 for the game, she hit a rocket to right field. That double play ran in both Breshears and Viator to set the game score at 4-2. Harris landed at second base but was not able to move on as Hamor scored the third out.

The final inning was marked by many hits on both sides of the field and no errors in this play-off game. Lady Bears took the Dayton out quickly with plays against Wilson, Bell and Morris.

In the last moments of the game, Harrell came up to the plate with strong determination. A tip on the ball gave her the final out for her season. Hamor who was 0 and 2 in the action fouled out but kept her .315 batting average for this year.  Gunn came up next and tried her best to avoid a three time at bat hat trick. She hit a drive to second base but was taken out at first. 

The quarter finals for the Regional playoffs does not include a best two out of three option this year. The season concluded with LC-M at 24-7 and Dayton at 16-4. A late rally by the Lady Bears gave fans some excitement, but did not make up for the sluggish start.

The West Orange-Stark Lady Mustangs, District 21-3A, will face off against the Taylor Ducks on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Huntsville’s Sam Houston State University. The winner of this round one game will face the Huffman Lady Falcons in the Region III quarterfinals next week.