GRAND SALINE — It will be a winner-take-all for a trip to the UIL State Softball Tournament on Saturday afternoon.
Aubrey scored three runs in the bottom of the fifth inning to grab a 4-3 win over Bullard in Game 2 of the Class 4A Region II semifinal series.
The third game will be played at 1 p.m. Saturday at Grand Saline.
“We talked about it before the game — great teams don’t get too high and great teams don’t get too low,” Bullard head coach Julie Murry said. “I don’t feel like we were too high coming out today at all, but I don’t want us to get too low. We understand we’re going to turn around and face a great team one more time. It’s going to be important to make big plays whenever we get the opportunity to.”
Bullard jumped out to a 1-0 lead quickly. Kaylee Paul had a one-out single in the top of the first, and Gabby Nichols followed with an RBI double to the gap.
Aubrey got the run right back in the bottom half of the inning. Lauren Trott led off with a double. After two straight outs — and a strong throw from center fielder Berlyn Grossman that forced Trott to remain at third — Kaelyn Cash came through with an RBI single with two outs to tie the game.
Teagan Graul led off the top of the second with a single, moved to second with a sacrifice bunt by Kenzie King and to third on a wild pitch. With two outs, Grossman delivered an RBI single to give the Lady Panthers a 2-1 lead. After a Paul single, Grossman and Paul had a double steal, but Trott got Nichols to pop out to second to end the threat.
Nia Bengtzen grounded out to start the bottom of the second. She was injured on the play and left the game.
Aubrey (22-8) loaded the bases in the third inning with singles by Trott, Emma Spears and Cash. Abby Hammett grounded to second, and Claire Cannon fired the ball home for the second out. Hadi Fults then struck out Madie Harris, who replaced Bengtzen in the lineup.
Nichols led off the fifth with a single. Trott retired the next two batters before Cannon came through with an RBI double down the line to stretch the lead to 3-1. Graul then hit a ball to third that looked like it might get to the outfield, but Hammett made the play defensively for the third out.
Trott led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk. After an out, Brynlie Dunkin singled to give the Lady Chaps two baserunners.
Bullard decided to make a pitching change as freshman Anistyn Foster — the Game 1 winner — came in for Fults. Cash hit a sacrifice fly to right to move up the runners.
With two strikes, Hammett hit a two-run single to tie the score. Josie Taylor walked before Kate Fetters hit a ground ball and reached on an error that allowed Hammett to come around for the go-ahead run. Foster then struck out Lexi Kendrick to end the inning.
“I feel like it came down to timely hitting for them,” Murry said. “I feel like we didn’t make a few plays that we should have made defensively. We had some decisions we didn’t necessarily make as well as I expected us to, but when you’re playing in big games, and you’re playing against good people, things like that happen.”
Trott was able to retire the final six batters in order with Hammett making three of the plays defensively at third base.
Trott allowed three runs on seven hits with two strikeouts. She also had two hits for Aubrey, joining Cash.
The loss for Bullard (31-5) ended a 21-game winning streak.
“I hope this fuels our fire,” Murry said. “It’s been a long time since we tasted defeat. That was another part of my message to our kids. It doesn’t taste very good, and we don’t want to taste that again for a while.”
Fults pitched 4 1/3 innings for Bullard and allowed three runs on six hits with one strikeout. Foster pitched 1 2/3 innings in relief with one run allowed on two hits with a strikeout.
Paul and Nichols each had two hits for Bullard.