For the second straight week in a winner-take-all playoff game, the Friendswood Lady Mustangs had to charge back from behind, as they eked by the Manvel Lady Mavericks, 7-6, in Wednesday’s Region III-5A area round playoff game at Santa Fe High School.
The Lady Mustangs now advance to the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
“We did just enough to win tonight,” Friendswood head coach Christa Williams said. “That’s the main thing, just being able to survive and move on. Now, we have to figure out what we’re doing next week. … It was a good team win.”
Down 6-3, the Lady Mustangs rallied with a four-run top of the fifth inning to take the lead.
With one out, Tricia Yarotsky singled and KK Esparza reached on an error to set up an RBI single from Elizabeth Higgins. After Chloe Riassetto walked to load the bases, Bayleigh Lay was hit by a pitch for an RBI the hard way.
Lauren Adams followed with an RBI sacrifice fly to right field to tie the game, and Reagan Jones came through in the clutch with the two-out, go-ahead RBI single.
With starting pitcher Riassetto not on her A-game, Haven Franks came out of the bullpen to quiet Manvel’s bats and close out the game. Franks picked up the win in the circle by throwing 3.2 shutout innings with just two hits and no walks surrendered and seven strikeouts.
“She was amazing, and the one thing about Haven is that she’s a competitor,” Williams said. “To see her come in tonight and not skip a beat, because she hasn’t thrown a ton of innings for me, she was lights out. So, I was super-proud of her tonight. She earned it.”
Shaky Friendswood fielding helped Manvel plate two runs in the bottom of the first and two more in the bottom of the second.
Leadoff hitter Haley Ratcliff reached on an error, and after Payton Wilsey reached on a fielder’s choice, Wilsey beat out an attempt to start a double play at second, putting two on with one out for Riley Bennett.
Bennett raked an RBI single down the right field line, and a second run scored on an off-target relay throw to give the Lady Mavs an early 2-0 lead.
Manvel doubled its lead to 4-0 in the bottom of the second on Wilsey’s two-out, two-run single that drove in Addison Greak (reached on a one-out error) and Ratcliff (reached on a runner’s interference play). Both those runners were able to move into scoring position on a wild pitch.
“I felt like we were pressing early, and we were not being us,” Williams said.
Friendswood hit its way back into the game with a three-run top of the fourth to trim its deficit to 4-3.
With one out in the frame, Esparza walked, Higgins singled and Riassetto reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases, and Lay smacked an RBI single, with a second run scoring on a fielding error in left field. An RBI grounder from Adams drove in the third run of the inning.
But, the Lady Mavs fired back with two runs in the bottom of the fourth to push their lead to 6-3. With one out, Ratcliff singled and Wilsey walked to set up a two-run single that Brianna Garcia chopped through the right side of the infield.
Friendswood’s Higgins (2-for-4, one RBI) and Manvel’s Garcia (2-for-3, two RBIs, one run) had multi-hit games for their respective teams.
Up next, Friendswood faces the winner of the Barbers Hill-Richmond Foster area round matchup in the regional quarterfinals. Barbers Hill currently leads the best-of-three series over Foster, 1-0.