The Port Arthur News
Softball games can often come down to inches. On Saturday, in the second installment of Mid-County Madness at Nederland’s softball field, an inch in time scored five runs as the Port Neches-Groves Lady Indians swept the season series with the Lady Bulldogs with a 5-2 victory.
PN-G (15-9, 7-4) scored five runs in the crucial top of the fourth inning, capitalizing on well-placed hits and some ill-timed defensive miscues from Nederland. That erased a 1-0 Nederland lead and the Lady Indians never looked back.
PN-G last swept the crosstown rivalry series in 2011.
“They are a good team and we had to stay tight and play good defense,” PN-G head coach Brook Buchanan said. “Ultimately, they did well as a team hitting tonight. When we had a rally, we kept it going. That’s what did it for us tonight. It was a good team effort for us tonight. We’ve been talking about settling in at the plate and getting your teammates in. We did a very good job of that tonight.”
Defensive miscues haunted Nederland (19-9, 7-4) in the first Mid-County matchup, which PN-G won 7-3. The Lady Bulldogs had two bad innings fielding the ball then, and it led to the first four PN-G runs. On Saturday, it was combination of good luck for PN-G and two bad plays for Nederland that broke the game open.
Senior shortstop Ricki Gilbert led off the top of the fourth with a bloop single that landed in short left field, inches from three Nederland defenders. The next batter, Taylor Thompson, put down a beautifully placed bunt that found its way past a charging Nederland third baseman and pitcher, putting runners on first and second.
That’s when the first defensive gaffe hit for Nederland. Shelby Valentine hit a grounder to second that could have been an easy double play. However, Nederland’s shortstop couldn’t catch the throw from second and PN-G quickly had the bases loaded with no outs.
On the next play, PN-G third baseman Katie Lee hit a pop up to short right field that turned around Nederland’s second baseman, allowing the ball to drop and for Gilbert and Thompson to score and give the Lady Indians a 2-1 lead.
After catcher Ryanne Lunceford was walked to load the bases again, two wild pitches allowed two more runs to score before designated player Madison Resch hit an RBI single to short left field, making it 5-1 PN-G.
“One inning did it,” Nederland head coach Will Mallette said. “Last time we played them, we kind of imploded defensively in one inning. It kind of happened again. Other than that one inning, we played pretty good defense in a lot of different spots. They came through with a couple good hits and booted the ball when we couldn’t boot the ball. It just wasn’t our night.”
Nederland scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the first. Nederland’s Savana Guidry reached on a bunt single down the third base line and promptly stole second. Two batters later, Kelsey Beard drove her in with a single up the middle to make it 1-0 Nederland.
After that, PN-G starter Shelby Valentine settled in and held the Lady Bulldogs scoreless until the sixth. Valentine allowed nine hits and two runs while walking none and striking out five. Maci Dean finished the game, throwing 1 1/3 innings with no hits, walks or runs allowed to pick up the save.
“Shelby did a great job keeping them off-balance and Maci did a great job coming in and shutting them down,” Buchanan said. “Shelby had a little bit of a rough first inning, but she settled in and did a good job. She was hitting her spots and making sure she trusted herself and her calls. Us knowing those hitters and how to pitch them helped a lot, too.”
Nederland’s MaKayla Kelly pitched the entire game for the Lady Bulldogs. In 7 innings, Kelly allowed nine hits and five runs while walking one and striking out two. Teammate Guidry went 2 for 4 with two steals and a run scored while Kelsey Beard was 1 for 3 with an RBI.
For PN-G, Gilbert was 3 for 4 with a run scored while Resch was 1 for 2 with an RBI.
PN-G and Nederland are now tied in third place at 7-4 with three games to play. PN-G will host second-place Vidor at 7 p.m. Tuesday while Nederland will travel to Beaumont Ozen.
Port Neches-Groves 5, Nederland 1
PN-G 000 500 0 -- 5 9 1
Nederland 100 001 0 -- 2 9 2
Shelby Valentine, Maci Dean (6) and Ryanne Lunceford; MaKayla Kelly and Nicole Matise. W – Valentine. L – Kelly. S – Dean.
Leading hitters: PN-G – Ricki Gilbert 3-4, run scored; Madison Resch 1-2, RBI; Lunceford 0-2, BB, run scored. NEDERLAND – Savana Guidry 1-3, SB, run scored; Jensen Richard 2-2, HBP, run scored; Kelly Bergeron 2-2, sacrifice bunt.
Records: PN-G (15-9, 7-4); Nederland (19-9, 7-4).
Next: PN-G hosts Vidor, 7 p.m. Tuesday; Nederland at Beaum ont Ozen, 7 p.m. Tuesday.