Entering the regular-season finale, the Lufkin Lady Panthers had known for awhile that they would be participants in the 2017 playoffs. On Friday night, they showed the fight that could make them legitimate contenders as they stunned The Woodlands Lady Highlanders, 2-1, in nine innings at Morris Frank Park.
Down to their final strike, Lufkin’s Cailee Hendrick made her Senior Night one to remember by forcing extra innings with an RBI double. Lexy Ramirez then came through with a bases-loaded walk as the Lady Panthers handed the district champion Lady Highlanders their first 12-6A loss.
That made a winner of Lufkin’s standout sophomore Smiley Radke, who baffled a star-studded Lady Highlanders’ lineup on her way to pitching a complete-game three-hitter.
Playing in front of a packed crowd, Lufkin showed it wouldn’t back down from The Woodlands, who had coasted through most of district action.
Radke allowed just a single hit through the first six innings in slowing down The Woodlands for the second time this season. Earlier this year, she came up just short against the Lady Highlanders.
In the seventh inning, it looked like Lufkin may taste a repeat of that game as The Woodlands loaded the bases with no doubts on a pair of walks and a single in the top of the seventh inning.
Becca Borstmayer then delivered an RBI single to left that let The Woodlands finally get on the board. However, Ramirez was there to gun a potential second run down at the plate, keeping the score at 1-0.
That play proved to be pivotal for the Lady Pack.
After the first two outs were recorded in the seventh inning, Tatum Liles jumped on a pitch for a double to right field.
Hendrick then delivered the highlight of the night, driving an RBI double to deep center to drive in the tying run.
Given second life, Radke wasn’t going to let another game slip through her grasp as she struck out a batter with the bases loaded in the eighth inning.
After retiring The Woodlands in the ninth inning, she drew a leadoff walk before Liles delivered a single. After a flyout, Samantha Padilla drew a walk to load the bases.
Ramirez then walked on a full count to send the Lady Panthers into the playoffs on a high note.
The Lady Panthers will open the playoffs next week with a site and date to be determined.