Lambert’s softball team has heated up at just the right time.
The Longhorns didn’t enter the Region 5-7A tournament on the same kind of roll, having won just two of their last seven games heading into this week’s action. With two wins to start its tournament appearance, though, Lambert was in position to improve its standing heading into the state playoffs.
To Lambert head coach Brooks Youngblood, it’s been all about his team’s mentality. When Lambert bowed out before the playoffs even started last year, the Longhorns didn’t quite have it, but a year later, that’s all changed. And after a 6-0 win against Forsyth Central on Wednesday, Lambert will be a No. 3 seed out of Region 5-7A when the postseason begins. Central, which beat Milton earlier in the day to secure a playoff spot, is the No. 4 seed.
“We understood the importance. We came out here with a good mental framework, a good focus knowing what needed to be done,” Youngblood said. “We locked in mentally. We engaged. We were there every single pitch of every single game and we were ready to go.”
The Longhorns’ pitcher was certainly locked in. Brooke Miller earned an easy win in the circle, celebrating her 18th birthday with a complete-game two-hit, 13-strikeout performance.
“I just wasn't trying to throw it by people,” Miller said. “I was trying to trust my spins and trust my defense, and did just that. It worked out. I just relaxed today and just threw my game.”
Lambert’s offense took the lead in the first and never gave it up, with a Bulldog error in left scoring Lindsey Nelson and Anna Jackson hitting a double to left-center to make it 2-0. Central left fielder Emma Lynch crashed into the wall hard attempting to make a play on Jackson’s hit, which ultimately resulted in a crushing injury for the Bulldogs: She’ll miss the rest of the season with a broken collarbone, adding to the number of issues Central has dealt with in the last few days.
The Bulldogs’ miscues continued in the third with another error, which contributed to their third allowed unearned run of the game on a Jackson single.
“The first three innings, we needed a tent because it looked like a circus, quite honestly,” Central head coach Paul Cromie said. “I don't know if that's a thing where we're concerned about Bailey (McCachren) being sick. There’s a lot of things that come into it. They're tired, there's some that have been fighting off illness. I'm not going to say they just threw in the towel, but there's a lot of other factors.”
From there, Lambert just padded its lead, with Miller and Nelson collecting RBI singles in the fourth and Allie Sewell scoring on a wild pitch in the seventh.
“I know they can hit,” Youngblood said. “I’ve known they can hit all year. I know we can play defense well. I know we can pitch well. I've known all that, but we did well physically because of our mental approach. When we have the right approach, we have a lot of success, and I know we can continue that.”
Nelson went 3 for 4 for the Longhorns, while Sewell and Jackson collected two hits apiece. Ansley Clark and Kristi Brower notched Central’s only hits. Brower took the loss in the circle for the Bulldogs, allowing two earned runs over seven frames.