Italy’s postseason run ends in Game 3

Crawford scores game-winner in seventh to clinch berth in state tournament

Daily Light report
Italy softball players look on from the dugout during Thursday's 6-3 loss to Crawford in Game 2 of their Class 2A Region II final series. The Lady Gladiators' season ended on Saturday with a 1-0 walk-off loss to the Lady Pirates in the deciding game.

WEST — For the first six innings of Saturday’s decisive Game 3 of the Class 2A Region II finals, not much offense was happening on the field for either team, but the Italy Lady Gladiators seemed to have things in hand against Crawford.

Italy ace Emily Janek was cruising along with a two-hit shutout through six innings, and the Lady Gladiators were getting runners in scoring position and just hoping for that one big breakthrough hit.

But in the bottom of the seventh inning, things turned against Italy in heart-wrenching fashion.

The Lady Pirates walked off with the victory in the blink of an eye, using a triple and an error to take a 1-0 win at West High School and advance to this week’s Class 2A state semifinals while ending the deepest Lady Gladiator softball playoff advance ever.

Crawford’s Kylie Ray took strike one looking from Janek to start the seventh, then line-drived a triple to the rightfield corner. The next batter, Kenzie Jones, grounded into an error, and Ray dashed home with the series-ending run from third base.

The Lady Gladiators finished the season at 37-4 overall, while Crawford (31-6) advanced to a state semifinal matchup against undefeated West Sabine that was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon at the University of Texas’ Red & Charline McCombs Field in Austin.

Macey Cooper was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles for the Lady Gladiators, who left six runners in all on base. Ella Hudson, Cadence Hopgood and Danaisia McCowan each added a single.

Janek finished the day with nine strikeouts and no walks, allowing just three hits and one unearned run.

The Lady Gladiators had several opportunities to score throughout Saturday’s game, starting in the top of the first inning, when Hudson and Hopgood had back-to-back hits. A strikeout and a popup, however, ended the threat.

In the third, Keri Scott got to second on an error but was stranded there; and in the fourth, Cooper was tagged out at second base after oversliding the bag on one of her doubles.

But the one missed chance the team may lament the most was in the fifth, when McCowan hit an infield single and Brooklyn Steinmetz walked. Both advanced into scoring position on a groundout, but another grounder ended the inning.

Cooper doubled a second time in the sixth inning but was unable to advance, and Italy was retired in order in the top of the seventh to set up the bitter ending.