DALLAS — Cassidy Wittrig hit a two-run home run in the top of the first inning to give the Lebanon High softball team a quick lead and some much-needed momentum.
But the Warriors could not hold on in a 3-2 loss to Dallas in the quarterfinals of the 5A state softball tournament.
Wittrig’s two RBIs were the only runs batted in by Lebanon.
The Warriors (19-10, 11-7) had faced Dallas pitcher Kaelynn Simmons twice already this year and lost on both occasions. Simmons got her third win of the year over Lebanon at home and the Dragons (20-4, 18-0) will advance to the semifinals on Tuesday.
“She’s a good pitcher and she hasn’t lost this season,” Lebanon coach Mardy Benedict said. “We’ve been able to hit her. The other couple times were just like this where we had runners in scoring position but we just can’t get that clutch hit that drives in a couple more runs. She mixes it up and changes speed. She can go away, she goes in, she does a great job.”
Wittrig’s homer represented an approach to the game that Benedict talked about all week.
“Cassidy has been hitting the ball really well lately,” Benedict said. “For her to be able to clutch up like that was awesome. We’ve been preaching to get out ahead early instead of being on the back side trying to defend all the time. We did that today, but we just couldn’t hold onto it.”
The Warriors took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth inning. With a runner on first, shortstop Riley Willigan made a heads up defensive play when a ground ball was hit her way. She fielded it faked a throw to first, then caught the Dallas baserunner rounding second in a pickle, eventually tagging her out.
From there the inning was ugly for Lebanon.
The following Dragon batter hit a double. With runners on second and third, pitcher Lauren Christie pitched a ball that got past the catcher and rolled to the backstop, a run scored and the game was tied. Simmons then hit the go-ahead RBI single that would represent the game winning run.
"Today I think that our defense was good, we just needed to pick it up in the last innings," Christie said. "I could have shored up a few things, but overall."
Christie said she wasn't hitting all of her spots.
"But they have an awesome offensive team so it's hard to pitch around them," Christie said.
Another passed ball and two stolen bases later, Christie got out of the inning, but the damage had been done.
“They’re good on the bases and they’re great at putting pressure on you,” Benedict said. “We had a couple balls go off the catcher that gave them some better opportunities to move around. That put them in situations where a good hitting team will put the ball in play and score runs.”
Lebanon had a chance to even things up in the top of the sixth after a leadoff Wittrig single. Allison Crawford ran for Wittrig and reached second as Rylie Milligan was walked. With one out Mary-Kate Whitlach hit a deep fly ball to center field. It was caught and Crawford tagged up. The call at third base was close, and Crawford was deemed out.
“Allison got a good jump,” Benedict said. “She was already through the bag and the call was made by the umpire who was running down the third base line. It looked like a simple call, but he made it tough on us.”
The Warriors went three up three down in the seventh.
“We are playing our best softball right when we're supposed to, in the playoffs,” said Benedict. “I was really proud of them. It’s a long season and they got out and hustled every day, they practiced hard and competed, listened to instruction and we just improved throughout the entire year.”
Lebanon Express editor Matt DeBow contributed to this article.