The Raiders certainly weren’t lacking
confidence – they were 7-1 overall heading into their first region game with
the Longhorns, and had taken advantage of three walks to help gain their early
lead. Mize got out of a noisy bottom of the first unscathed, but in the second,
Lambert’s Anna Jackson tagged her for a two-RBI single to tie the game 3-3.
“We were kind of down a little bit,” Mize said. “I don't know why, but we weren't as intense in the dugout as we usually (are). We needed to cheer more and have more intensity.”
It didn’t take long for North to regain that excitement, though. The Raiders took advantage of walks and defensive miscues to take a five-run lead after the fourth, which ultimately was enough to give North a 10-4 victory in its Region 5-7A opener.
“It's good to get the first win under your belt,” North head coach Jim Cahill said. “It's going to be a grueling 10 games (and) every one matters. They're all going to be tight -- this game was tight for a while and we pulled away. They're a scrappy, gritty team and we were able to take advantage of mistakes they made.”
After Mize’s shaky start, she settled in nicely and finished the game for North. Over her seven innings, she struck out seven and only walked three.
“In the beginning I kind of got off but I just zoned in and focused on strikes and spin,” she said.
Lambert starter Brooke Miller didn’t start well either – In the first, she walked two runners in with the bases loaded before a sacrifice fly to left made it 3-0.
After the Longhorns tied the game in the third on Jackson’s hit, they not only tried to focus of taking advantage of scoring opportunities, but also on finding ways to slow North’s powerful offense. In the fifth, the Raiders came away with three hits, including a two-RBI hit from Mize. Lambert trotted out four pitchers to help keep North’s hitters off-balance, but even when they were getting the desired contact, the actual results they wanted didn’t always come.
“We got weak contact all day,” Lambert head coach Brooks Youngblood said. “They had countless little bloops falling. Our outfield was playing too deep trying to respect the hitters because they can hit the ball. I think our pitchers were getting the contact they wanted. I was happy with that -- I wasn't happy with the walks and the errors. We've got to clean that up.”
Mize led the Raiders with a 2-for-4, four RBI performance at the plate, while Jackson, Ansley Hyde and Lindsey Nelson brought in runs for Lambert. With the win, North improves to 8-1 overall and 1-0 in region play, while Lambert fell to 2-7, 0-1. Despite dropping its region opener, there are still plenty of games to be played on the schedule, which gives Lambert some optimism going forward.
“It's not the region opener that I wanted, but you look at the region schedule and you've got North and Central in the same week,” Youngblood said. “If you can walk away 1-1 after that week, I think you're sitting pretty good in the region ... If you can split with that team this year, you're doing great.”