SUNNYVALE — Despite its offensive shortcomings, Sanger was one run and 60 feet away from pushing Game 2 of their Class 3A Region II semifinal series against Van into extra innings.
Van’s defensive miscues kept the District 9-3A champions alive in the contest, and another late error enabled the Lady Indians to keep hopes alive of extending the season by at least another inning.
The Lady Vandals were able to strand the runner on third base, picking up the dramatic 5-4 victory on Saturday afternoon at Sunnyvale. The win gave Van the series sweep and eliminated Sanger from the playoffs.
“It just wasn’t meant to be, I guess,” Sanger head coach Jae McMinn said. “That’s all I can say. I’ve asked myself that for the last 24 hours. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
The Lady Indians were able to extend its season one round further than last year’s run. McMinn said this year’s postseason push was the furthest the Lady Indians (30-6) have gone during her tenure.
Late in Saturday afternoon’s contest, Sanger was in prime position to push the series to a decisive third game. After dropping a 5-1 decision in Game 1 on Friday night, the Lady Indians put together a three-run fifth inning against the District 15-3A champions to break a scoreless tie.
Van shortstop Ashlin Lovett dropped a sky-high pop-up near home plate, allowing Sanger to start its big inning. Morgan Turkoly reached on a bunt single and a throwing error by Van third baseman Chelsey Trejo allowed Sanger to score the first two runs of the game. Erica Bjorndal singled in the third run.
In the bottom half of the inning, Van designated player Kylee Moore doubled to deep left field. Moore’s double was the first of five hits in the inning, sparking the five runs the Lady Vandals (29-5) needed to advance to the regional finals next week to face either Frisco Lone Star or Mineola.
“They didn’t let that kill us,” Van head coach Craig Ham said of the error-filled fifth inning. “They didn’t let that beat us, and that’s the character of these girls. I’m proud of them. We could have very easily chalked that up and said, ‘Let’s go play Game 3.’”
Ham said Moore’s lead-off double set the tone for the inning, and the team quickly followed Moore’s example.
“It’s kind of been like that,” Ham said. “When we’ve started hitting, it’s been contagious with this team. We’ve had innings like that before this year, and that was a key one to have at that time.”
Sanger’s Natalie Castillo tripled with one out in the top of the seventh, but the Lady Indians couldn’t get her home for the game-tying run. When Harlee Sliger popped out in foul territory to end the game, the Van fans in red stood and roared in their half of the bleachers. The Sanger fans on the other side of the bleacher stairs paused before they filed out to congratulate this year’s team.
Sanger center fielder Nicole Nordie was one of five seniors who played their last game. Nordie, a four-year starter, will play for East Central in Ada, Okla., next year. Stogsdill is headed to Tarleton State, while Bjorndal will play for Grayson College.
Nordie said she was proud with how far this year’s team advanced in the playoffs and was pleased with her time at Sanger.
The outgoing senior said that along with an improvement in the offense, the team’s improved chemistry enabled the Lady Indians to travel further through the bracket than it had in recent years.
“We all get along,” Nordie said. “We all did, and that helped out a lot. I mean, we got along last year, too, but this year we all knew how each other played, and we all got along really well. We had no drama or anything.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter @Ben_Baby.
Van 5, Sanger 4
Sanger 000 031 0 — 4 5 2
Van 000 050 x — 5 8 5
WP — Autumn McKinney. LP — Kelly Mardones. 2B — V: Kylee Moore, Hallee Carter. 3B — S: Natalie Castillo.