Howe 18, Van Alstyne 0

On the side of a building at the center of downtown Howe, Texas, there is a V for victory sign that is normally only turned on for every Bulldog football victory.

They made an exception to those circumstances on March 24 and turned on the light following Howe’s sweep of baseball and softball games at Forrest Moore Park in Van Alstyne.

Howe senior Madisyn Hargrove blanked the Lady Panthers, giving up just four hits while striking out nine, as the Lady Bulldogs prevailed, 18-0 in a five-inning, run-rule win.

Van Alstyne committed seven errors, leading to nine unearned runs in the contest. With the win, Howe improves to 5-1 as the first half of District 10-3A play comes to a close.

“ I think we are making fewer mistakes, playing with more confidence after almost 20 games and we have hit the ball well these last couple of games,” Howe head coach Jeff Martin said. “I try to keep it simple, and the team has responded really well.”

In those two games the Lady Bulldogs have outscored the opposition 33-0.

Howe collected 18 hits in the Lady Panther game and junior Erin Blackburn had four hits in five trips to the plate to lead that explosive offense. She had one of three triples the Lady Bulldogs came away with in the game.

Junior Torrey Stubbfield, 3-for 5 and senior Emily Sanders, 2-for-3 each had three-baggers as well.

The visitors wasted little time in getting the scoreboard numbers turning. Blackburn singled to left field to open the first, followed by infield hits by junior Peyton Streetman and Hargrove. With one out, senior Kayla Anderson singled to drive in Blackburn and Streetman, giving Howe a 2-0 lead.

Hargrove was a bit shaky at the start, walking one Lady Panther in each of the first two innings.

After striking out one in the bottom of the second, Amryss Brogdon walked in the second and was replaced by courtesy runner Abby Hill. Hill advanced to second on a passed ball, but could go no further as Hargrove got back-to-back strikeouts to end that threat.

Howe took advantage of three Lady Panther errors in the third to score six runs and take a commanding lead. Anderson reached on an error and junior Payton Griffin hit a double off the wall in left field, putting runners at second and third. Senior Dani Ross hit a sacrifice fly to right, driving in Anderson. Griffin scored on a Van Alstyne error and a walk to Sanders put two runners on.

Blackburn’s second hit of the game loaded the bases and a sacrifice fly by Streetman brought in one. A double by Hargrove and Stubblefield’s RBI single made it an 8-0 game.

Van Alstyne got its first base hit of the game in the bottom of the third as freshman Micah Welch beat out a hit to short that was all hustle. She stole second and advanced to third on a single by junior Treylee Neill.

Hargrove got the final two outs, holding both runners on to preserve the shutout. Howe added four runs in the fourth, the big hit coming on a triple by Blackburn.

Van Alstyne’s most serious scoring threat came in the bottom of the fourth. Sophomore Jenna Williams beat out an infield hit and swiped second. Brogdon lined a single to right and Williams was waved home, but a nice throw from Sanders in right to Ross at the plate caught Williams.

Back-to-back strikeouts by Hargrove extinguished the Van Alstyne threat.

“We work on fundamentals every day — catch the ball, throw the ball,” Martin said. “It’s simple, and they put it all together on that play.”

Ten Lady Bulldog batters came to the plate in the fifth inning and the first five got on base.

Griffin led the inning with a single and after a walk to Ross, senior Kamryn Fulenchek sent a shot to left that banged off the top of the wall for a double that plated Griffin.

Sanders’ triple drove in two, giving Howe the magic number 15.

Blackburn singled to drive in Sanders and senior Madee Mullins came off the bench to line a shot into left field and raced all the way to third on a Van Alstyne miscue.

“It was great seeing Madee get that hit, she works hard in practice and it paid off,” Martin said.

Mullins scored on Stubblefield’s triple and Anderson singled to drive in Subblefield with the Lady Bulldogs 18th run.

Hargrove got three consecutive outs, one her ninth strikeout of the night, ending the game early, and lighting up the victory light.

Howe will have an open date on March 28, then travel to Leonard on the 31 to begin the second round of District 10-3A play.