VARNELL — The Calhoun Lady Jackets had to win two very different types of games against Coahulla Creek in the opening-round doubleheader of the Region 6-AAA playoffs, but the team leaned on its formidable lineup and unwavering pitching staff to complete the sweep against the Lady Colts and cement a spot in the semifinals.
The sweep also clinches the sixth straight State Tournament berth for the Lady Jackets (18-8).
Game 1 of the series was a tightly-contested, defensive grind that quickly transformed itself into a duel between opposing pitchers. Backed by a handful of clutch defensive plays and timely hits, Calhoun pitcher Maggie McBrayer prevailed in a 2-1 victory.
McBrayer was dialed in from the start, allowing no hits through the first four frames and striking out seven Coahulla Creek batters over seven solid innings.
The Lady Colts (15-10) managed to scratch across its lone run in the fifth when the team strung together a single, double, a hit-by-pitch and then an RBI-single from leadoff batter Lily Snyder. However, McBrayer swiftly settled back in and allowed only one more hit over the last two innings to pick up the win.
“I was extremely proud of the way that Maggie performed,” Calhoun head coach Diane Smith said. “She had to battle through some tough situations early on, but she stuck with it and pitched one of her best games of the season.”
Coahulla Creek starting pitcher Maddie Locke also put together a nice showing from the circle, but the Lady Jackets were able to make an early statement off of the bat of catcher/third baseman Lyndi Rae Davis, who crushed a towering solo homer in the first inning to put Calhoun on top.
The Lady Colts had a difficult time getting Davis out all evening. She added a single in the fourth and finished 2-for-2 in Game 1.
“Davis was huge for us tonight,” Smith said. “She has come through for the team during some big moments this season, and we know we can rely on her to deliver us a hit when we need one.”
The Lady Jackets scattered a few hits throughout the following innings, but failed to push across any runs until an eventful fifth inning. Outfielder Erin Barnes kicked things off with a base hit, followed by Davis reaching on a walk and third baseman/catcher Adella Carver tacking on a single to load the bases for second baseman Anna Taylor, who patiently accepted a base on balls from Locke that provided the game-winning run for Calhoun.
Game 2 was a more explosive, offensive-oriented contest for the Lady Jackets. Calhoun came out of the break in between games swinging, registering six consecutive hits to open the game.
After outfielder Carlie Henderson and Barnes each contributed singles, Davis struck again with a blistering RBI-single. Carver smacked an RBI-double, pitcher Blair Hall chipped in a RBI-single and Molly Walker connected on a two-RBI double to push the score to a commanding 5-0 in the first inning.
Henderson and Carver both finished 2-for-4 in Game 2, with Carver adding another RBI in the second inning to give Calhoun its six-run total. Taylor and infielder Lona Sims also contributed hits in the fifth inning.
“We hit the ball in Game 2 like I know we were capable of,” Smith said. “It was an outstanding performance from our lineup from top to bottom, and I think we can go far if we keep putting the ball in play like we just did in this game.”
The six-run cushion was plenty of support for Hall in the pitcher’s circle.
Hall was able to shake off a second inning in which Coahulla Creek’s Savannah Hott cleared the bases with a two-RBI double to go the distance for the Lady Jackets. She kept hitters off balance the entire game, collecting seven strikeouts and allowing only one hit after the second.
“Just like Maggie, I thought Blair fought through some early mistakes and was excellent out there as the game went on,” Smith said. “We are going to need these types of performances if we hope to keep going in the postseason.”
The Lady Jackets will be back in action in a doubleheader on Saturday as they visit Sonoraville in the semifinals of the Region 6-AAA playoffs that starts at 10 a.m. Calhoun is in search of their sixth straight region title, but they will have to go through their cross-town rival, whom they split with during the regular season.