Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Sports

April 14, 2014

Cleburne faces Crowley needing a win to force tiebreaker game

CLEBURNE — The Cleburne Lady Jackets enter the final night of district play Tuesday against Crowley with a chance to extend their season.

Cleburne sits at 6-7 in league play, one game behind Crowley (7-6) in the standings for the fourth and final playoff berth out of District 8-4A.

A Cleburne win would force a tiebreaker game to determine a playoff berth. A Crowley win would simply eliminate the Lady Jackets.

The Lady Jackets dropped a 10-7 game against Crowley on March 21 — a game in which Cleburne held a 5-0 lead over the Lady Eagles. That contest also featured a controversial runner’s interference call against the Lady Jackets in the seventh inning that abruptly ended a Cleburne comeback.

The loss was a learning experience all the way around for the Lady Jackets, Coach Kala Winn said.

“We got ahead early on Crowley the first time,” Winn said. “We had a 5-run inning and then everyone got comfortable, including myself. We know that we have to focus for all 7 innings, and then 7 again to get where we want to be. I feel like the umpire did rob us of our momentum — there’s no telling what the score is if he doesn’t take that away from us. But that was a lesson learned in itself; we can’t leave the game up to the umpires and we can’t let the scoreboard be that close.”

Now, the Lady Jacket and Lady Eagles will do it all over again — this time with the playoffs on the line.

“Our motto all year has been, ‘Grind now. Shine Later.’” Winn said. “I have been telling them, ‘It’s later.’ Now is the time we have worked for all year.”

With so much riding on the line — extending their season or seeing their season come up just short — Winn said her players know what’s up for grabs.

“Without saying it, we all know what is at stake,” Winn said. “I don’t want to over-emphasize it because I know the girls understand the situation. What I want to keep emphasizing is to win every inning. I know if we go in with that mindset, the end result will come.”

The Lady Jackets are coming off an encouraging outing on Friday against undefeated district champion Burleson Centennial. Despite the 9-2 loss, the Lady Jackets played the Lady Spartans to a 1-0 game over the first several innings. Centennial held a slim 3-0 lead until scoring six runs in the ninth.

On the other hand, Crowley is coming off a discouraging 15-0 run-rule loss to Burleson on Friday.

Not only is Cleburne looking to extend its season, the Lady Jackets are looking to end a three-game losing streak. In the first round of district play, Cleburne lost four games in a row to Joshua, Burleson, Burleson Centennial and Crowley. During the first three games of that stretch this time around, the Lady Jackets are 0-for-3 again. But a win today would end that streak, and keep the Lady Jackets alive for one more game.

Senior Alli Suitt will get the nod in the circle for the Lady Jackets in the win-or-go-home matchup.

“We are going to go with Alli Suitt,” Winn said. “She has really zeroed in this second half of district, and the defense behind her has been on that same level. I know if Alli brings the A-game she has been bringing, all the rest of the puzzle pieces will fall in to place.”

Suitt was solid against offensive powerhouse Centennial for the first six innings, allowing only three runs on seven hits on Friday.

In the first meeting against Crowley, Caylee Russell pitched a complete game for the Lady Eagles. Russell threw 125 pitches in the game, allowing seven runs on seven hits. In that first game, Suitt had an impressive day at the plate, as she was 3-for-4 with an RBI. Mackenzie Kirkpatrick got the start for Cleburne that day, lasting 4 1/3 innings while allowing five runs on seven hits with three strikeouts.

The Lady Jackets and Lady Eagles are scheduled for a 5:30 p.m. start Tuesday from Crowley High School.

Details for a possible tiebreaker game if Cleburne wins has not been set. Playing the tiebreaker game immediately following the 5:30 p.m. game was a possibility. Check www.cleburnetimesreview.com for updates or follow on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

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