Jacksonville Daily Progress
Mother Nature left her mark, a frigid, wet and windy one at that, on Game 1 of a best-of-3 Class 3A, Region III Area series between No. 4-ranked Rusk and Waco Robinson on Thursday night at Don Posey Field in Fairfield.
The unfavorable conditions led to a total of 13 errors being committed in the contest, with Robinson's seventh and final gaffe being the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back for the Rockettes.
Rusk (25-2) edged Robinson, 7-6, when Chelsie Daniels scored following a Sydney Littlejohn single to right field that came with one out.
The Rockette right field had trouble getting the handle on the damp ball which gave Daniels a clear path to second base.
When the throw into the infield sailed high and wide of its mark, bouncing off of the backstop, Daniels made the move to the plate.
Robinson came up with the ball quickly and managed to get Daniels into a lengthy rundown between third and home.
But when a Rockette made a wild throw into shallow left field, Daniels was able to cross the plate with east, giving Rusk the all-important win in in the opener.
“Its always crucial to try to win the first game of a series,” Rusk head coach Ashley Renner said. “By winning the first game we don't have the pressure on us of having to win twice (today) to stay alive and that's huge.”
The game went back and forth all evening, with the Lady Eagles leading 3-2 after three complete.
In the top of the fourth frame Robinson's Kenzie Dawson lifted a Littlejohn pitch over the center field wall for a towering three-run home run that put the Rockettes up 6-3.
But Rusk came right back and refused to give in.
In the bottom of the fifth frame the Lady Eagles sent a trio of runs across to move in knot things up, 6-6.
That's where things stayed until the ninth inning fireworks from the Lady Eagles.
Bailee Gates singled and drove in two runs in the segment after Littlejohn, who went 3-for-5 at the plate, stroked a two-out double to the wall in left center.
The Rusk scoring run was aided by two Robinson errors.
Other offensive leaders for Rusk included Kelsey Blankinship (2-for-3) and and Rachel Miller (2-for-4).
Miller picked up the Lady Eagles' remaining extra-base hit in the form of a smash double to left that came in the sixth inning.
Littlejohn collected the win in the circle, giving up six runs on five hits while fanning 14 and walking five.
She surpassed the 1000-career strike out mark, which set a new school record, when she sat down Spencer Strain to lead off the final frame.
Renner said that winning the opener was especially important for her team's state of mind, as Robinson beat Rusk 13-3 last year to eliminate the Lady Eagles from post-season play.
“I think that we had something to prove after what happened last year,” she said. “Confidence wise it was important for us to be able to get the win and put last year behind us and take the advantage this year.”
Game 2 is scheduled for 1 p.m. this afternoon in Fairfield.
Should a third game be needed it will be played shortly after the conclusion of the second game.