After last week’s wakeup call defeat at the hands of Myrtle, the Lady Mustangs refocused their energy just in time for the start of the postseason, picking up four wins in as many tries following a first round bye, and then matching up against No. 3-seeded Eupora and fellow No. 1-seed Pisgah.
Game one came on the road at the Eagles’ nest in Eupora, where Mantachie cruised out to a 5-0 lead through the first four innings, after an RBI single in the second by sophomore Abbey Johnson and a bases-loaded triple by senior Lynsey Barber, who went 5-for-6 on the day, in the fourth inning.
A nightmarish half hour in the bottom of the fifth saw the Lady Eagles take it all back, plus one, take a 6-5 lead, following a plethora of bizarre plays and defensive miscues by the Lady Mustangs.
Rather than allowing the disastrous inning quell them, Mantachie immediately responded in resounding fashion, batting around and plating eight runs in the top of the sixth, en route to a lopsided 18-6 win.
In addition to Barber’s five hits, the NEMCC signee also drove in a career-high seven runs, and crossed the plate three times herself. Junior Hanna Gillean had three hits in the contest, one being a go-ahead three-run home run in the sixth frame.
The next day back at the Ponderosa, the Lady Mustangs completed the sweep, besting Eupora 3-0, in a game that never quite felt in doubt. Freshman Ramsey Montgomery shutout the Lady Eagles in the circle, and brought her two day strikeout total to 13, while Barber drove in all three of the Mantachie runs.
Barber went 8-for-10 at the plate in the series, failing to reach base only twice, with one of the outs coming on a bang-bang play at first base that went against the Mantachie captain.
After the series, Eupora head coach Amir Hunt alluded to the play in his vocal praising of Barber and the Mustangs.
“She (Barber) is the best pure hitter we’ve seen all year,” said Hunt. “The only way we got her out today was a missed call by the umpire. Mantachie is a really good team and we wish them good luck the rest of the way.”
Friday saw a three-hour excursion to Sand Hill, Mississippi, home of the Pisgah Lady Dragons who upset the favored Calhoun City Lady Wildcats in their second-round skirmish. Pisgah came in having won their division handily in the regular season.
Things almost went sour in the first inning as Pisgah’s senior slugger Maryanna Guy roped a line-drive to centerfield at blazing speed, but a leaping snag at the fence by senior Madison Jones prevented the homerun.
In the ensuing at-bat eighth-grader Campbell Guin and seventh-grader Allie Ensey led off with back-to-back singles. Three-straight two-out singles by Barber, Gillean, and Montgomery plated as many runs to make it 3-0 through two.
The next turn at the plate for the Mustangs busted the game open at the seams with Jones starting the frame by reaching on an error, and Guin launching one over the centerfield fence, just inches from the fielder’s glove for her first career home run that made it 5-0.
Ensey and Barber were both hit by pitches while Gillean drew a walked to load the bases. All three scored after a hard single to center by Montgomery forced a throwing error to the plate. Another eighth-grader, Lillianna Cates, then singled in Montgomery to make the tally 9-0 by inning’s end.
Cates picked up a second RBI in the sixth inning, tripling in Montgomery who singled to left moments earlier, and bringing the game to its final score of 10-0 in five innings.
Montgomery pitched all five frames and only faced one hitter over the minimum, finishing with a shutout no-hitter while also going 3-for-4 at the plate with four RBIs.
At home, Mantachie extinguished the Lady Dragons’ flames the next day, winning 6-1, sweeping the series.
While Montgomery again dazzled in the pitcher’s circle with 10 more strikeouts on just three hits, and went 3-for-4 batting, it was the youth who emerged in the big moments with the bat.
Guin (3/3), Ensey (2/3), and fellow seventh-grader Annsleigh Justice (1/3), making her first varsity start, accounted for six of the team’s 10 hits and four of the six runs. The playoffs have proven to be a real “coming of age” for the Lady Mustangs’ young core.
The next adversary will be a familiar one, division archrival East Union, who the Lady Mustangs defeated twice in the regular season, but this time a North Half Championship and trip to the state title game hang in the balance for the victor. Game one will be in Ellistown Friday night with games two and three Mantachie on Saturday.