It took three games, and plenty of heart stopping moments, but the Lufkin Lady Panthers’ softball team is still standing. A memorable weekend of softball came to a fitting end when Lufkin superstar Alex Flores roped a walk-off RBI single to center field to give the Lady Panthers a 4-3 win over North Forney at Van High School Saturday afternoon.
That hit sent the Lady Panthers into the regional finals for the first time in school history, completing a Class 5A Region II Semifinals series win. After a miraculous come-from-behind win on Thursday followed by a blowout loss on Friday, the Lady Panthers spent much of Saturday afternoon looking like it may have to call it a season.
Lufkin battled back from a 2-0 deficit in the fifth inning only to see North Forney use yet another homer to take a 3-2 lead headed into the bottom of the seventh inning. However, the Lady Panthers weren’t going to go down without a fight. After the first two outs were recorded in the seventh inning, Lufkin loaded the bases with a Yami Valdez walk, a Jasmine Ibarra single and a Sara Mayes’ hit by pitch.
Then facing their final out of the season, Sam Padilla was hit by a pitch to drive in the game-tying run. Flores made sure extra innings would not be necessary as she delivered the game-winning hit to give Lufkin a 4-3 win and a spot in the regional finals, just one step shy of the Lady Pack’s first-ever trip to the state tournament.
If not for the pitching of Smiley Radke, that walkoff hit may have never happened. With Flores battling through an illness, she battled through a dangerous North Forney lineup. She picked up the win in relief in the first game and pitched a complete game in the deciding contest. As was the case in each of the three games in the series, North Forney took the early advantage, scoring single runs in each of the first and second innings.
Unlike the previous games, it took Lufkin some time to finally find its offensive punch. After being held scoreless for the first four innings, Lufkin finally got on the board in the fifth inning. Reagan Jordan started the rally with a single and Valdez added a single. Ibarra followed with a two-run double to center that tied the game at 2-2. North Forney attempted to deliver the knockout shot in the seventh inning when Morgan McCallum hit a solo homer before Lufkin showed it still had plenty of fight left in the best season in school history.
Saturday’s win came after Lufkin struggled throughout an 8-3 loss to North Forney on Friday night. Lufkin trailed for most of the night against an explosive North Forney offense before eventually dropping the five-run game. The Lady Panthers took a brief 2-1 lead in the second inning when Sara Mayes and Samantha Padilla had RBI singles to overcome a 1-0 deficit.
However, that didn’t deter North Forney, which scored four runs in the second inning to quickly erase that deficit. Lufkin pulled closer in the third inning with Ibarra delivering an RBI single to make it 5-3. That was as close as Lufkin got as North Forney scored two runs in the fourth inning and added another on a solo homer in the fifth inning to make the final 8-3.
Lufkin started the series by overcoming an 8-0 deficit in a 12-8 win. The Lady Panthers will continue the playoffs this week against Forney with a date, time and site to be announced. Forney is currently the No. 1 team in the state while Lufkin is No. 4.