MIDLOTHIAN — The 14-9 Lady Panther victory that lit up the blue and silver scoreboard on Tuesday night at Lady Panther Field at the Midlothian Sports Complex kept one Ellis County softball team in the running for the District 10-5A No. 2 seed.
For the other, it may have given fans a glimpse of the talent Head Coach Andrea Fanning and the Lady Hawks have lurking beneath the surface.
The (18-9, 10-3) Lady Panthers used seven hits to generate 14 runs in four innings. Five of the Lady Panthers' RBIs game after a 2-for-4 plate performance from Shelby Noah and four came from Tatum Sorrels (1-for-2, 2 RBIs), Lexi Perez (1-for-2, 1 RBI), Annabel Anderson (0-for-2, 1 RBI) and Sierra Mihailov (0-for-2, 1 RBI).
Anderson and Mihailov drove in runs via a walk and a hit-by-pitch in the bottom of the second inning. Noah, who allowed five runs on five hits while committing a pair of errors, striking out eight batters and walking only one, held the Lady Hawks' bats silent for three innings.
Though Midlothian scored eight runs between the first pitch and the end of the second inning, Red Oak stormed back — courtesy of a sophomore Taniece Tyson home run and run-scoring doubles by sophomore Lacy Weaver and senior Rickia Smith — to score four runs in the fourth and sixth innings.
Noah's brief success ended with the sound of the crack of bats and Herculean swings by Tyson and Weaver.
With two outs in the top of the fourth inning and a 1-0 count for Red Oak, Weaver took Noah's second pitch and drove it through the heart of the Midlothian defense. One batter later, Tyson's two-run-scoring swing sent a 3-2 count fastball over the fence and nearly sheared Midlothian's lead in half.
Smith, the second to last batter of the inning, helped edge Red Oak within four runs with a Paul Bunyan-like swing of her own — a double up the middle that scored sophomore power hitter Rhian Carson.
Midlothian found the answer to Tyson, who struck out five batters in 4.2 innings with 88 pitches but allowed seven of the 14 runs on six hits, and her gritty pitching in the bottom of the fifth. Sparked by back-to-back walks by Anderson and Kaylee Hlavaty and a line-drive single into left field by Noah, the Lady Panthers scored four runs to extend force a 10-4 lead.
A double by Perez two batters later and a score by Sarah Williams on a wild pitch added two runs before the end of the inning.
Though Red Oak rallied again within four runs in the top of the sixth after RBI single by Kailee McCutcheon and Raegan Ferguson and a reached base by Alexandria Rodriguez on an error, the surge was too little and too late.
Noah and half-inning reliever Emari Hudson retired three of the next five batters — two by strikeout — they faced and allowed a single run in the seventh inning.
Red Oak (5-16-1, 2-11) will face Mansfield Legacy High School at 7 p.m. at Lady Hawk Field during its district softball finale. The Lady Hawks, which were eliminated from playoff contention after the loss to Mansfield Timberview on April 1, lost 4-2 to the Lady Broncos on March 31.
A win by Red Oak — as well as a Mansfield Legacy loss to Mansfield Summit on Wednesday — could open a possibility for Midlothian to claim the first 5A district softball championship in school history.
Midlothian will face a winless Lancaster High School team that lost 15-0 to Ellis County rival Waxahachie High School on Tuesday. The Lady Panthers will face the Lady Tigers at 7 p.m. Friday at Lady Tiger Field.
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.