Entering Friday’s state softball tournament, Holtville had not been on the losing end of a run-rule game since 2017. The Bulldogs also had not lost two consecutive games all season but both of those streaks came to an end at the worst possible time.
Holtville (41-12) did not respond well from a few major injuries and saw its season end with the two worst losses of the year. The Bulldogs fell to No. 3 North Jackson in the opener after the Chiefs scored 11 unanswered runs to send Holtville to the losers’ bracket where Dale County ended the Bulldogs’ season with a 13-3 defeat.
“We didn’t play well at all today,” Holtville coach Daryl Otwell said. “I hate the way it ended but I’m still proud of them for how they played all year. When you get to this level, you can’t make errors and pitching is so crucial. That hurt us a lot in this tournament.”
After scoring a quick run to take the lead in the top of the first inning of the opener, North Jackson responded with 11 straight runs to end the game after five innings.
Cyndi Thornton got the scoring started with an RBI single to score Breella Hughley in the first inning but that was the only run Holtville could get in the first-round loss. One run has been enough for the Bulldogs with KK Dismukes in the circle but something was off from the start for the Holtville ace.
“I thought the excitement and energy was there early on,” Holtville coach Daryl Otwell said. “KK’s arm has been bothering her but she tried to push through the pain. When we made that change, the morale of the team changed a little bit.”
Dismukes had to be pulled from the circle after allowing two walks, one hit by pitch and a single in the first six batters of the inning. North Jackson capitalized with four runs in the first to take the lead for good.
Holtville kept the game close with Brooke Cooper in the circle but North Jackson blew the doors open in the bottom of the fourth. The Chiefs recorded five consecutive singles to start the inning and finished with six more runs to push the lead to 10-1, ending any hopes of a comeback for the Bulldogs.
“Sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t,” Otwell said. “Anything possible that could have gone wrong today probably went wrong for us today.”
That seemed to continue when the Bulldogs met Dale County in an elimination game. Holtville sent Alexus Hindman to the circle for her first game as a pitcher since April 2.
Dismukes took over responsibilities at the plate with a double and a homer in the first three innings to help Holtville take a 2-1 lead into the fourth. Hindman allowed just three hits to that point but Dale County got the bats going with the help of some fielding miscues by the Bulldogs.
Five of the first six runs for the Warriors were recorded as unearned and Holtville went into the bottom of the fifth trailing 6-3 with its season on the line. A lightning delay followed but the Bulldogs were not ready to go home.
Brooke Cooper came to the plate after the delay with one on and two outs. She drove a ball to dead center field but Dale County’s Joanna Marshall robbed Cooper of a homer and crashed through the fence with the ball to end the inning.
“She hit the ball really well but the center fielder made a great play,” Otwell said. “That was a game changer. She flipped over the fence a little bit and that’s one of those things that continues to happen here at Lagoon Park. You never know what would have happened without those fences but they made a lot of good plays in the field tonight.”
Dale County came out with seven more runs in the top of the sixth inning to put a cap on any comeback hopes for the Bulldogs. Holtville finished with seven fielding errors and the Warriors scored 11 unearned runs.
Despite the rough finish to the season, the Bulldogs found it easy to focus on the success of the season. The team’s five seniors did not get to attend their own graduation Friday night because of the tournament but Otwell said it was fitting to see their high school careers finish on a softball field.
“For five years, they have bought in and worked hard,” Otwell said. “They set their goals really high. Holtville has not made it to Lagoon Park very often. I was proud to see them commit to softball and even though the results are what they are, it speaks highly to the importance of their team to them.”