Haila Linton

Rio Vista's Haila Linton struck out nine batters and allowed only three hits in a 4-1 victory Friday over Hamilton as the Lady Eagles stayed undefeated in district play.

RIO VISTA — After cruising to an 8-0 start in District 12-2A play with all eight wins coming in run-rule fashion, Rio Vista received its toughest test in league play Friday against Hamilton. And the Lady Eagles passed with a 4-1 victory to stay perfect in district.

Rio Vista (19-8) won its first eight games in district by an average margin of 16 runs per game. The Lady Eagles scored at least 15 runs in seven of those eight games — including an 18-1 win over Hamilton in their first meeting — but the Lady Bulldogs came out Friday determined to push Rio Vista.

“Give them credit, they came to play,” Rio Vista Coach Keith Johnson said. “I think they made a couple of adjustments and we had a couple opportunities with the bases loaded and we just didn’t get the key hit like we did last time. They also didn’t make the errors they made the first game. They really came to play and made the plays they had missed the time before.”

Rio Vista scored one run in each of the first two innings to take an early 2-0 lead.

After Rio Vista senior Haila Linton torched district opposition the first round of district play, teams have been more cautious with Linton at the plate in recent outings, including Friday. In the first inning, Hamilton walked Linton and then Randi Wilson bunted her over to second base. After Linton stole third base, she scored on a passed ball for a 1-0 lead.

Linton officially went 0-for-0 with three walks and two runs in Friday’s win.

“It means other kids are going to have to step up or we’re going to have to change our approach when they walk her,” Johnson said. “If they walk her, we may have to bunt to get her in scoring position. But basically other people are going to have to make them pay for walking her, which the other night they did because she scored two of our four runs. I think she’s about to see quite a bit of that, which is one reason she’s our leadoff because if they walk the leadoff you’re in business. But for her, it’s the ultimate sign of respect.”

In the second inning, Emma Cox hit an RBI single to score Libby Hutchison to make it 2-0.

In the fourth inning, Hamilton mounted its biggest threat, but an impressive play by Rio Vista’s defense kept the Lady Bulldogs from tying things up. After a one-out triple, the Lady Eagles threw home on a fielder’s choice to get the runner out at the plate to keep it 2-0.

The next better for Hamilton reached on an error, which allowed a run to score as the Lady Bulldogs cut the deficit in half at 2-1.

In the bottom of the fifth, Hamilton again walked Linton to lead things off. Wilson followed with a double to put two runners in scoring position with no outs. With Autumn Adrian at bat, Linton scored on a Hamilton error, which allowed Wilson to advance to third. Maddie Westmoreland brought Wilson home on an RBI groundout for a 4-1 lead.

Linton locked things down from there as she retired six of the final seven batters she faced, working around a two-out single in the top of the seventh, for the complete-game win.

Linton struck out nine batters and allowed just three hits with one unearned run and one walk on only 78 pitches. Linton threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of the 25 batters she faced.

Cox went 1-for-2 with a walk and RBI while Graci Benoit was 1-for-2 with a walk to lead the Lady Eagles.

Johnson said Friday’s hard-fought win against Hamilton was a good thing for his squad.

“I think you need to have a little adversity as you approach the playoffs,” he said. “I always use the phrase, ‘It’s OK to be uncomfortable every once in a while’ and that’s what they needed to be to get that game. I think that was good because this type of game teaches you.”

The Lady Eagles are on the verge of history, needing just one more win in district play to clinch their first outright district championship since 1999. Rio Vista can secure that district title at 5:30 p.m. today against Hico. Additionally, the Lady Eagles are also aiming to finish undefeated in district play.

“I would say we’d like to finish undefeated in district,” Johnson said. “That is something to build on and it also creates more goals for you to go into the playoffs with. I think that sets your standards higher by winning district and then even more by going undefeated.”

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