Kassie Howard never gave West Forsyth a chance to make up for its one mistake.
West gave Lambert an unearned run in the third inning and Howard made the most of it, allowing one hit while striking out eight batters in the Lady Longhorns’ 1-0 victory on Tuesday at the Wolverines’ field. Howard rang up five strikeouts in a row at one point and did not walk or hit a batter in a complete game performance.
"All of my pitches were working and I was getting them to swing at pitches out of the zone," Howard said. "My defense worked behind me because I’m just supposed to throw strikes and let them get the outs."
The Lady Longhorns (14-2, 5-1 Region 6-AAAAAA) now sit alone in first place atop the region with the help of North Forsyth’s 9-1 victory against South Forsyth on Tuesday at Raider Field. Lambert, South, North and West (9-6, 5-2) all entered the day in a logjam atop the standings with only one region loss apiece.
Lambert and North (10-7, 4-1) face off at 7 p.m. today at the Lady Longhorns’ field.
"All the teams in our region are great programs, especially the Forsyth teams," Lambert coach Dana Corr said.
"We’ve just got to be well-prepared out there and work hard and hopefully our girls will come away with a victory at the end of the day because West is awesome, North’s awesome and South, too. Whoever’s going to make the first mistake usually is going to be the one that loses the game."
That mistake came in the top of the third Tuesday, after Zoe Miller delivered a one-out single to left off West pitcher Maci Fletcher (7 IP, 6 K, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 H, 3 BB, HBP). Jenny Barto laid down what was meant to be a sacrifice bunt, but the throw to first sailed too high and ended up in foul territory in right field, allowing Miller to score all the way from first.
Fletcher took her second hard-luck loss in the last three games. She was one out away from a shutout against South Forsyth last Wednesday, before an error tied the game and allowed the Lady War Eagles to win in extra innings.
"You’ve got to find ways to score runs and we didn’t do that tonight," West coach Justin Rickett said. "[Howard] did a good job ... kept us off balance."
The only blemish on Howard’s pitching performance came in the bottom of the fourth, when Angie Jordan delivered a one-out double to left-center. Jordan moved to third on a ground out by Caitlyn Parks, but Howard got Erica Davis to pop out, leaving the runner stranded.
"She did amazing and she only missed one spot all day," Corr said of Howard, a junior. "She worked extremely hard. She’s a great little pitcher out there; we love her."
The victory was Lambert’s fifth in a row and first-ever against West. The Lady Longhorns were previously 0-3 against the Lady Wolverines in a trio of meetings during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.
Lambert has come a long way since finishing 3-15 during its inaugural season in 2009. The Lady Longhorns have improved their overall record every season, and their only two losses this year have each been by a single run.
"It’s just been a progression all along," Corr said. "We’ve got great girls that work really hard, and our team really wants it.
"They come out there every game and every practice to give 150 percent. We’ve got a good little thing going on with all the girls gelling and we all believe in each other."