By BRAD KEITH
GRAFORD (May 1, 2015) — Stephenville will need to rally from a game down in order to advance to the area round of the state softball playoffs for the second time in school history.
The Honeybees left the bases loaded in the top of the sixth inning and stranded two in the fifth and seventh in a 4-2 loss to Burkburnett in the opening game of a best-of-three Region I-4A bi-district series Friday evening.
Game two is 3 p.m. Saturday, also at Graford. If needed, game three begins 30 minutes after the conclusion of game two.
Stephenville kept Burkburnett off the scoreboard despite getting a runner to third in each of the first two innings, but the third time really was the charm for the Lady Bulldogs.
Madison Blair doubled to begin the third, and moved to third when a sacrifice bunt turned into a fielder’s choice producing no outs. While Stephenville was trying to get the lead runner at third, the batter, Brittni Joshua advanced to second with no throw.
A double to left by Jaley Matteson brought in both runners, and Madison moved to third on a sac fly before scoring on a single to center by Mach Hooker for a 3-0 Burburnett lead.
Stephenville drew closer in the top of the fifth when Sierra Varnado walked and moved to second on a sac bunt by Madi Crew. Varnado scored on a single by freshman right fielder Rainey Boase, but the Honeybees couldn’t do any additional damage.
Kali Smith walked to put two on before Nadine Arredondo singled into left field. Running in place of Boase, Jamie Merrill tried to score on the hit by Arredondo, but was gunned down at the plate by Burkburnett left fielder Faith Hollingsworth to end the inning.
Burkburnett got the run back in the bottom of the fifth, with the help of an error that kept the inning alive. The first two batters went down quickly before the error put Kaci Trahan at second. She scored on a single to center by Hollingsworth.
Stephenville inched closer again in the sixth, but stranded runners cost the Bees again. Julia Flores and Sami Shaffer had back-to-back singles before Sierra Varnado drew a walk to load the bases. Madi Crew laid down a bunt and Burkburnett tried to get Flores at the plate, but she slid under the tag for what proved to be the game’s final run.
A strikeout and a ground out ended the inning with Honeybees left at every base, and the Bees stranded two after singles by Arredondo and Emily Miller in the seventh.
Flores, a freshman pitcher, had six strikeouts for the Bees. She allowed seven hits while issuing two walks. One of the Burkburnett runs was unearned.
Stephenville is in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year and the fifth time in program history. They advanced to the second round in 2011, and have not missed the playoffs – or advanced past the first round – since Rus Mayes took over as head coach in 2012.