Lambert softball had endured its share of misery in the first round of the state playoffs the past two seasons. A year ago, the Lady Longhorns hosted Mill Creek, the eventual state champion. Two seasons ago, they hosted Etowah only to be almost single-handedly eliminated by Alabama commit Skylar Wallace.
So Wednesday was a pleasant departure for Lambert with 14-0 and 13-0 mercy-rule victories against Lakeside-DeKalb at home in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs.
The Lady Longhorns (22-3) pounded out 29 hits, including three home runs, and held Lakeside (10-16) to just two hits to advance to the second round where they’ll play the winner of Camden County-Hillgrove next Wednesday.
“You always talk about how on paper it looks like we should be able to take care of business,” Lambert Coach Brooks Youngblood said. “Well, they came and they took care of business.”
Indeed, Lambert’s pitching overwhelmed Lakeside. Kassidy Krupit threw a four-inning complete game no-hitter in Game 1 while striking out six. Marissa Guimbarda was nearly just as dominant in Game 2, allowing just two hits over four innings while striking out six.
And the Lady Longhorns’ offense was unrelenting, producing in all spots.
“I don’t even remember who did what. Everybody hit,” Youngblood said. “They all did what they should have done. It was good to see.”
The scouting report on Lakeside-DeKalb going in to Wednesday was enticing. The Lady Vikings were rated the No. 41 team in Class 7A, according to MaxPreps, the lowest of any team in the state playoffs. Lambert was No. 1. The Lady Longhorns trusted its defense and pitching. The question was how well Lambert dealt with Lakeside pitcher Brooke Bergstrom’s slower velocity.
Guimbarda provided the answer in Game 1. Two batters in to the bottom of the first, the Furman commit hit a towering home run to left-center field. Lambert led 4-0 by the end of the inning.
Brooke Miller led off the bottom of the second with a line drive homer to center to spark a five-run inning. Guimbarda sparked the next five-run inning for Lambert in the bottom of the third with a near-identical home run to her first one.
Miller continued the onslaught in Game 2. Playing as the visiting team, Lambert managed just one run in the top of the first. When Lindsey Nelson flew out to right field to end the inning, Lakeside’s dugout erupted in cheers that must have been equal parts elation and relief.
No matter. The Lady Longhorns sent 15 batters to the plate in the top of the second. Between eight hits and two Lakeside errors, Lambert scored 11 runs. Miller alone had two doubles and five RBI in the inning.
Afterward, the game – and series – drifted into a lull of inevitability. The cushion allowed Youngblood to give time to substitutes like Riley Rollings, Kaley Varner, Allie Hengler, Catherine Harper, Ansley Hyde and Anna Jackson.
And for Lambert to savor it first state playoff series victory since 2013.
“I think everything we wanted to accomplish we got accomplished,” Youngblood said. “It was cool.”