Savannah Matheus could sense the funk Sanger had settled into offensively midway through the Lady Indians’ Region II-3A one-game quarterfinal playoff game against rival Aubrey on Friday night.
Sanger had sent 14 batters to the plate since a first-inning rally, seen only one reach base and watched an early lead disappear.
“We needed something to pump us up,” said Matheus, a junior who had been in and out of Sanger’s lineup throughout the playoffs.
That was just what Matheus provided in the Lady Indians’ 4-2 win at Tina Minke Field.
Matheus came to the plate as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the fifth inning with Sanger down 2-1 and launched a towering solo home run to left field.
Five of Sanger’s next eight batters came up with hits, including center fielder Nicole Nordie, who launched a home run to left field that gave the Lady Indians a 3-2 lead they would not relinquish the rest of the night.
Sanger (30-4) advances to face the winner of a series between Van and Gladewater that is scheduled to conclude today. The time and site for the series will be determined sometime this weekend.
“They fed off each other,” Sanger coach Jae McMinn said. “When Savannah hit that home run, it changed the game. We started hitting. We were struggling.”
Sanger got off to a great start when shortstop Morgan Turkoly reached on an error to lead off the game, stole second and scored on a Nordie sacrifice bunt.
Kaley Reding shut Sanger down for the next three innings, a run that allowed Aubrey (26-9) to come back and take a 2-1 lead. Shortstop Logan Even drove in left fielder Kayla Sullivan with a single in the third to tie the game.
Center fielder Melanie Funk singled to lead off the fifth and scored on a Reding single to give Aubrey the lead.
McMinn turned to Matheus a short time later.
“We needed hits and she put me in,” Matheus said. “I tried to do what I could. I didn’t think I hit it over. It was an inside pitch, and I always have trouble with inside pitches.”
Aubrey never recovered and saw a successful season end.
“This team was able to get three rounds deep,” Aubrey coach Shon Ranton said. “We had eight seniors and this was the most successful season they had. They can leave knowing that they won more games than they ever had in their careers.”
It was Sanger’s power, and the spark Matheus home run provided, that prevented Aubrey from extending that run.
“Their team can smack the ball,” Ranton said. “We haven’t hit a home run all year and only had one last year. When they hit two and have power like that, it puts you in a bind.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 or via Twitter at @brettvito.
Sanger 4, Aubrey 2
Aubrey 001 010 0 — 2 8 1
Sanger 100 012 x — 4 7 0
WP—Kelly Mardones. LP -- Kaley Reding. 2B – Aubrey: Emily Torres. HR – Sanger: Savannah Matheus, Nicole Nordie. Records – Sanger 30-4, Aubrey 26-9.