Lady Leopards clinch playoff berth

Apr. 22—Friday afternoon was a day of celebration for the Gainesville softball team.

The Lady Leopards honored their seniors before playing their final regular season home game, then defeated Wichita Falls Hirschi 25-1 in three innings to clinch a playoff spot for the first time in six years.

Gainesville coach Gary Mayfield said it was great to see the players' smiles.

"They're a great bunch of kids," Mayfield said. "I love to see them smile. It's been an adventure this year, to say the least. They're all fun. They all like to have a good time. So, I'm just happy for them."

Gainesville (7-16 overall, 2-6 District 7-4A) swept the season series against the Lady Huskies, claiming fourth place in the district.

Hirschi (2-17, 0-8) led 1-0 midway through the first inning, but it was all Gainesville from there.

The last time the Lady Leopards made the playoffs, they finished fourth in their district in 2017. That team went on to knock off Carrolton Ranchview, a district champion, 19-0 in the first round. They fell in the second round in three games to Bonham, which in turn lost in three games to eventual state champion Krum.

Gainesville sophomore Kennedy Dodson said the softball program is improving, and the biggest improvement since the start of the season has been teamwork.

"We're one," Dodson said. "We're not nine girls playing on the field. We're one team."

Gainesville scored 11 runs in the first inning and 14 in the second. The Lady Leopards only tallied four hits but drew 17 walks. Four Gainesville hitters were hit by pitches. Every hitter in the lineup scored at least two runs.

Mayfield said the Lady Leopards have gotten more disciplined at the plate throughout the year, and it showed in this game.

"If you watched us game one, game two, game three, we weren't that disciplined," Mayfield said. "As we've gone through the year, we've learned these things. We've learned more discipline. We've learned how to handle situations like this."

Dodson had a memorable day at the plate. She hit two inside-the-park home runs in the bottom of the second inning. The first came with two runners on base. An errant throw from the outfield allowed her to score on the play. Later that inning, she hit what should have been a single to left field with the bases loaded, but the ball got past the left fielder, allowing all four runners to score.

"It was kind of tiring," Dodson said. "I was out of breath afterwards, but it was a good feeling."

Ahnna Edington also delivered a big hit in the second, a bases-clearing triple. Abigail Vazquez and Breanna Barrientos joined Edington in tallying three RBIs.

Barrientos pitched all three innings for Gainesville. She held Hirschi to one hit and two walks while striking out five hitters. Hirschi's run was unearned after a pair of errors in the first. She finished the game by retiring the Lady Huskies in order in the top of the third.

Gainesville will face Krum in a best-of-three series in the bi-district round April 28-29.