By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — Savanna pitcher Bryn Houlton allowed a leadoff single to Stacey Washington in the top of the first inning.
Houlton wouldn’t allow another hit through the next six.
Houlton allowed just three unearned runs in seven innings, striking out 10 and giving up just one hit to help the Lady Bulldogs beat the McAlester Lady Buffaloes, 7-3 on Tuesday at the Pittsburg County Softball Complex in McAlester.
Savanna finished its regular season 23-5, while McAlester fell to 13-16 and has now lost 10 consecutive games.
“We still have energy, but they know,” McAlester coach Justin Bond said. “They know that we have to turn it around, and we have to turn it around on the field.”
Though she pitched well through the first three innings, Houlton really found her groove in the bottom of the fourth. McAlester had scored two unearned runs when catcher Jordin Wilson for the second time in the game threw her pickoff-attempt at third into the outfield, allowing Heather Morgano and April Calistro to score, but Houlton came back and struck out Kylie Impson to maintain a 4-3 Savanna lead.
Houlton then struck out the side in the top of the fifth. She went on retire her final 10 batters faced, pitching 1-2-3 innings in the sixth and seventh and getting Impson to ground out softly to second to end the game.
Savanna coach Angie Wilson credited Houlton’s success in part to the playcalling of catcher Jordin Wilson.
“She’s very knowledgeable behind the plate,” Coach Wilson said of Jordin. “She knows what they can hit and what causes popups and what causes grounders.”
Down 1-0 in the bottom of the second, Savanna used smallball to take the only lead it'd need all game, with Rosiemae Martinez walking and Baleigh Drake bunting both Martinez and herself into scoring position. Lady Dawgs nine-hole hitter Hailey Wilson then hit a soft roller towards second and beat the throw to first, driving in the game-tying run.
McAlester first baseman Baylee Dawkins tried to throw out Drake at third on the play, but the throw sailed into foul territory, leading to an unearned run and a 2-1 lead. McAlester escaped further damage when left fielder Bri Talbot got the ball to third baseman Calistro, who threw out Wilson at home.
Savanna pushed its lead to 4-1 in the bottom of the third on a bases-loaded walk by Jessica Wright and a mishandled grounder by Dawkins that led to another unearned run. Dawkins later threw out Jordin Wilson at home for the third out, but Savanna pushed its lead to 6-3 in the fifth on an RBI double by Martinez and an RBI bunt single by Drake.
Savanna leadoff hitter Taylor Haynie singled to leadoff the bottom of third, scoring on Wright’s walk. Haynie also tripled down the third base line in the sixth, scoring when Cox drew a walk and got caught in a rundown.
“She was focusing on placing the ball, and so I was trying to pick out where she was going to place it,” Haynie said of Lady Buffs pitcher Erica Martin.
McAlester's first run came when Stacey Washington led off the top of the first with a single, then stole second base as Vhitney Garner struck out. Washington then attempted to steal third, forcing a bad throw from Jordin Wilson that allowed Washington to come home.
With Savanna’s regular season over and McAlester’s season about to enter its final week, the two teams find themselves in very different places. McAlester got a competitive start from Martin, but several times the Lady Buffs infield looked confused without pitching ace Cheyenne “Mo” Selman.
“Right now, we’re searching,” Bond said. “’Mo’ was definitely that energy and that leadership when she was in the circle, and we have yet to find our rhythm and our pace without her being in the circle.”
Because of ongoing back pain, Selman has pitched just four innings since Sept. 7, spending most of her time at shortstop. That same pain has also probably been one reason for her 2-for-17 hitting slump.
The Lady Buffs are just trying to end their losing streak and head into Regionals — almost guaranteed to be on the road — with a little momentum. The Lady Dawgs, on the other hand, want to return to the Class 2A state championship game, so Coach Wilson is looking for any little cracks she can fix to make her team as close to perfect as she can heading into Regionals.
When asked if this Lady Dawgs team can get back to the championship, Coach Wilson said, “If we do the small things that we didn’t do today, yeah. We can’t have that many errors and make it there, no. But if we make those plays, for sure.”
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.