MIDLOTHIAN — After Glen Rose High School had tacked on four quick runs in the top of the second inning, it may have seemed like Flashback Friday and the first clang of the death knell bell.
Not for starting hurler Jordan Freas, her catcher or the other 11 girls on the Jaguars' roster.
Glen Rose eliminated Midlothian Heritage High School from playoff contention after Monday night 14-12 loss at Jaguar Softball Field and despite three separate rallies to either tie the game or take the lead.
"When you get production from the bottom of your order like we did tonight it makes you confident about what you can do at the top and in the heart of your lineup," said Waylon Whitney, the MHHS head softball coach. "It's hard for the opposing pitcher because everybody's hitting. You can't pitch around players. You saw that tonight when our No. 9 batter (Rachel) Richard laced a triple down the right-field line. She was a threat. You also saw that with the score."
Midlothian Heritage (8-16, 4-7) suffered a near season-ending collapse against the Lady Tigers less than 96 hours earlier after a run-ruled, three-inning 13-3 blowout during their district finale.
"They could've laid down after the bad loss on Friday but they showed some gumption. They showed some grit," Whitney continued. "It wasn't only the veterans and big players, either. It was some freshmen and role players that made a difference and that's always good. It what is the kids in the six, seven and eight holes started the rallies. They made the big innings."
Freas, who pitched seven innings and threw a season-high 171 pitches, nearly outdueled Glen Rose's Morris Courtney after striking out seven batters, walking seven and allowing 14 runs on 19 hits. Courtney allowed 12 runs on 15 hits with 124 pitches but committed nine errors and only struck out two.
Though the Lady Tigers sprinted out to an early four-run lead courtesy of a double by Abby Green and singles by Morris Courtney and Camryn Miller, the Jaguars bats warmed and fired a return salvo. Sparked by a Jessica Hershey leadoff triple, another by Richard and four consecutive hits by Rachael Gray, Makenna Anderson, Gracie Larkin and Jordan Freas, Whitney and Jaguar empire struck back an inning later.
Multiple hit games by five different players — Anderson, Freas, Gray, Larkin and Richard — didn't hurt Midlothian Heritage's comeback cause, either.
The Lady Tigers and Jaguars swung the score back and forth during the next two innings. Glen Rose responded first with a one-run-scoring single by Forkner Lauren but Midlothian Heritage rallied in the same inning after a game-tying steal of home by Anderson.
While five runs in the top of the fifth inning almost felled the Jaguars, they — for the second time in the game — found their mettle and rallied. Behind and RBI singles by Gray, a RBI triple by Anderson and a run-scoring single by Larkin, Midlothian Heritage cut the deficit from five to three, three to one and then one to nothing.
The game seemed destined for extra innings until Glen Rose's Alexis Drugan stole home and Lauren drove in Jaylan Evans, who got caught in a rundown, beat it and scored on a steal of home in the top of the sixth. Drugan also drove in Stegint Tatum home in the seventh.
Those three runs created the distance it needed to capture the fourth and final playoff berth in District 8-4A.
The Jaguars used back-to-back hits by Gray and Anderson and a RBI triple by Larkin to rally a final time and cut the lead to two runs, but Courtney settled and forced two game-winning outs with her final four pitches.
While Glen Rose prepares to face Mineral Wells High School in the bi-district round of the UIL 4A softball playoffs, Midlothian Heritage will rebuild, restructure and retool. Part of the rebuilding process, Whitney said, will concern spending the off-season honing their defense another will be jam packing spaces with talented players from around the area.
Whether it's Freas, Gray, Richard, Seimears or any of the bang-for-your-buck hitters that made up this season's Jaguars, every girl from this year is expected to compete for a roster spot in 2018.
"We grew a little tonight. We got trounced in Glen Rose and tonight, people stepped up that were in their normal roles. The good thing about next year is we don't graduate anyone and we've got more kids coming," Whitney said. "Competition breeds success and will create a better program here. It's not going to allow our players to stay complacent. It's going to push them. It could create a log jam and that's a good problem to have when your ultimate goal is bringing home a state championship."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.