HOPE — If there were any doubts about whether the Hauser softball team could match up with the state’s best large-school teams, Wednesday’s game against Jennings County ought to lay them to rest.
Facing a Panthers team receiving votes in the Class 4A poll — one they had never before beaten, no less — the Class A No. 2 Jets held on for a 5-4 triumph to remain perfect on the season.
“This is a great win for us,” Hauser head coach Craig Sims said, “and hopefully we can build on it, because there’s a lot more softball left.”
Already holding an early 2-1 edge, Hauser (9-0) created some breathing room with a three-run fourth inning. Jets pitcher Tessa Sims helped herself by knocking in a pair of runs with a bases-loaded single.
Later in the inning, Leslie Sims stole home, catching Jennings County sleeping during a debate over a check swing, to make it 5-1.
That theft seemed inconsequential at the time but proved to be the decisive run.
“I said, ‘Hey, go halfway; make something happen,'” Craig Sims said, “and she knew what I was talking about, and she did it perfectly.”
The Panthers (6-3) got a run back in the fifth when an error turned a Kyndyl Olds single into a full lap around the bases, then cut the deficit to one in the sixth on RBI base hits from Heather Feiles and Olds.
With the tying run on third, however, Tessa Sims struck out Darian Jarvis to end the threat, then retired the side in order in the seventh. The sophomore allowed 10 hits on the day but struck out seven and stranded seven Panthers on base.
“We talk each other through it,” Hauser catcher Hailey Lange said of her team’s ability to escape trouble. “Our infield talks to Tessa, I talk to Tessa, our outfield talks to our infield. It’s just all communication. Communication keeps us calm.”
Leslie Sims led off the bottom of the first with a base hit and wound up on third base when the ball bounced past the left fielder for an error. She scored shortly thereafter on a fielder’s choice bunt by Lange.
The Jets threatened again in the second, getting consecutive two-out singles from Ali Hoover and Leslie Sims. Hoover attempted to score on a subsequent error but was thrown out on a close play at the plate.
Jennings County tied the game in the top of the third when Olds singled Bug Donnell home, but Hauser promptly regained the upper hand in the bottom of the frame when Lange drove a 2-0 pitch from Donnell over the center-field fence for a leadoff home run.
“I had to see the ball in, I had to look for my pitch, and I just took it,” Lange said.
The road ahead doesn’t get any easier for the Jets, who are scheduled to travel to face their sectional host, Rising Sun, on Friday. The teams battled twice last season, with Hauser claiming a pair of one-run victories.