Looking for a strong push to improve their playoff seeding, the Lufkin Lady Panthers got a stellar performance from Smiley Radke and took advantage of a late Conroe miscue to pick up a 3-0 win over the Tigerettes in District 16-5A action at Morris Frank Park Friday afternoon.
Radke flirted with a no-hitter for the entire afternoon before allowing a seventh-inning leadoff single to Blakelea Nettles. That proved to be the only hit she allowed as she finished with a one-hitter, striking out 13 batters while walking one and hitting another.
That proved to be enough with the help of a wild play in the fifth inning.
With the bases loaded and Lufkin’s top power threat Sara Mayes at the plate, Conroe starter Macy Clevenger found herself a single pitch away from getting out of trouble.
However, looking to make Mayes chase for the third strike, Clevenger’s pitch got away from catcher Nettles. That allowed pinch runner Brianna Kelly to come around and score the game’s first run. Then when the catcher’s throw got away from the pitcher, the speedy Akridge came around to score the second run.
When the third baseman got the ball and attempted to throw out Akridge at the plate, the ball sailed wide of the catcher, allowing Julie Armes to come around for the third run and a 3-0 lead.
Mayes would eventually strike out, but the damage was done.
It seemed like the only drama was if Radke would be able to hold on to her no-hitter.
Nettles put an end to that drama when she singled to lead off the seventh inning.
After a strikeout, Madlyn Tannery was hit by a pitch. Then with two outs, Radke had the potential game-winning out slip through her hands for an error.
That loaded the bases and left Conroe with a chance to steal an unlikely win. As was the case the entire game, Radke came up with a key strikeout, ending the game and sending Lufkin to the win.
Prior to that seventh inning, Conroe’s only baserunner came in the first inning when Clevenger drew a one-out walk. After she reached base, Radke caught a liner to start a double play. She then coasted through the next 5 2/3 innings, retiring 16 consecutive batters.
Lufkin was able to get a single base runner in each of the first three innings on a Mayes double, a Tatum Liles single and an Akridge double, but all three were left on.
Liles led off the fifth inning with a single before the next two batters were retired.
Akridge and Armes then came through with back-to-back singles that loaded the bases, setting up the wild game-changing play.
Clevenger took the loss for Conroe, allowing three runs, one earned, on seven hits with five strikeouts and no walks.
Lufkin hitters were Akridge (double, single), Liles (two singles), Mayes (double) and Cailee Hendrick and Armes (single).
Lufkin returns to action on Tuesday night when it hosts Montgomery.