MIDLOTHIAN — Two mighty swings of the bat by Georgia Capell and Shelby Noah — as well as gritty and timely defense — made Midlothian High School one of the two second-seeded teams in District 10-5A softball.
The Panthers, which had suffered a disappointing 15-run loss to Waxahachie High School six days earlier, rebounded and edged Mansfield Lake Ridge High School 12-7 Wednesday at Lady Panther Field at the Midlothian Sports Complex.
"We had a jump a game before that one against Mansfield Timberview, who came back and tied it up and we ended up winning it on our offense," said Alejandro Lozoya, the MHS head softball coach. "I don't doubt our kids and their ability to swing the bat but we were put on notice with our defense that game. We didn't wake up or accept it against Waxahachie. They swung [the bat] and put the ball in play. We had to make plays and we didn't. We didn't pitch or play defense and that was the focus we had coming into tonight's game."
Against a Lady Eagles team one game ahead of Midlothian and in second place in District 10-5A, the Lady Panters brought their offensive ammunition to bear, crushing two homers and rocking the Mansfield Lake Ridge defense for 10 hits.
Kaily Gonzales, Mansfield Lake Ridge's starter and second in rotation, struggled against Midlothian's power-packed lineup, giving up seven of the 12 runs on six hits and committing seven errors. Kayla Parnell, who pitched three innings of relief, allowed the other five runs on four hits.
Noah's 4-for-4 plate performance and three RBI lead the Lady Panthers in both statistical categories and Capell, Kaylee Hlavaty, Lexi Perez each had two hits. Capell (2), Perez (2), Emily Singleton (2), Annabel Anderson (1), Megan Martens (1) and Tatum Sorrels (1) combined for nine of the 12 RBIs.
Despite Mansfield Lake Ridge on-base constant Brittany Jackson earning two hits, two walks, three runs and one RBI, only three other Lady Eagles earned hits. Emily Olguin, whose seventh-inning single sparked a late rally, was the only other Mansfield Lake Ridge player to record more than one hit.
Noah, the game's winning hurler, retired seven of the 34 batters she faced Wednesday via strikeout and forced 13 more into fly and groundout situations. She also walked seven batters and allowed seven runs on six hits in 133 pitches.
Though Midlothian held a 12-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth with the help of Capell's first-inning bomb, Noah's two-run home run two batters later and RBI singles by Noah and Perez and a sacrifice by Emily Singleton, the Lady Eagles rallied within five runs.
Capell said it was the defense rather than the offense that helped Midlothian diffuse the Lady Eagles power surge.
"We really just needed to focus up defensively because in the past when other teams scored, we'd lose our focus and momentum," said Georgia Capell, who's towering first-inning shot over the centerfield fence tied the game at one run apiece. "It's tough when we the game's tied 13-13 against Timberview — even though we ended up pulling it out. Our late-game defense and the way we came back from the 'Hachie game really showed what we can do when both sides of our game are clicking."
Midlothian, because of the Tuesday rainfall and subsequent rescheduling, faces a quick turnaround to their 7 p.m. matchup with fourth place Mansfield Summit High School at Lady Jaguar Field.
The (14-12-1, 6-5) Lady Jaguars are in a two-way tie for fourth place with Mansfield Timberview and one game ahead of Ellis County rival Waxahachie. The Lady Panthers beat Mansfield Summit 13-6 on March 21.
Wins by Midlothian and Waxahachie, which will play Mansfield Timberview on Thursday at Lady Indian Field, would deadlock the final district playoff seed in a three-team scenario.
"Summit has a lot to play for," Lozoya said. "That's part of the bad part. The other is that we have to play the second part of back-to-back games at their place where they're tough. It's a good situation for us to treat that as a game with playoff atmosphere that we have to win and begin to test ourselves for the postseason."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.