ERWIN — Making routine plays enables teams to win ball games. Failing to make them almost always ends in defeat.
Tuesday night was the latter case for Cleveland’s softball team, which failed to make the routine play and lost a heart-breaker, 4-3, to Two Rivers Conference rival Triton.
Despite a solid night at the plate and in the circle, the Rams could not overcome mistakes made at critical times and fell to 10-4 overall and 5-2 in Two Rivers action.
The defeat dropped the Rams out of a first-place tie with county rival South Johnston.
The Trojans, who were scheduled to meet county and conference rival Corinth Holders on Wednesday, were 5-1 in the Two Rivers standings, a half-game ahead of the Rams.
Triton snapped a three-game conference skid with the win and moved into third place with a 4-3 conference mark, a half-game in front of Corinth Holders in the race for the final playoff berth from the league.
The Hawks improved to 10-6 overall.
“Errors cost us this game tonight,” Rams coach Samantha Coats said, referring to miscues that led to a pair of unearned runs in the the fourth inning and the winning run in the seventh.
“We were hitting the ball, and they were hitting the ball, but we were making errors,” Coats said. “That was the difference tonight.”
Cleveland shelled Triton pitching for eight hits, scoring once in the second and third innings, but gave those runs away in the middle stages of the game.
Leading 2-0 entering the bottom of the fourth, Cleveland saw everything unravel when Triton’s leadoff hitter, Samantha Dunn, reached second on a throwing error.
The Hawks immediately took advantage on a single by Kayce Graves, who was sacrificed to second.
Following a pop-out, Erica Occena sent a shot to second, which took a bad hop, leading to a late throw and allowing Graves to score.
Cleveland had taken a 1-0 second-inning lead when Alliyah Sands reached on a throwing error, was sacrificed to second and scored on a single by Becca Straka.
The lead grew to 2-0 on a bunt single by Maura McLean and a double by Sands.
Sands was 2-for-3 for the night, while Straka and Mangum also were 2-for-3.
Triton took a 3-2 lead in the fifth when Emma Thomas singled, moved to second on walk and reached third on a violation by losing pitcher Taylor Drayton.
Triton took advantage of the miscue with sacrifice fly that scored Thomas.
“We have to come back from the mistakes we make,” Coats said. “The girls have to learn to work through them.”
Cleveland rallied to even the score at 3 in the top of the seventh on a one-out single by Drayton, who struck out five batters and walked three.
Drayton moved to second on a sacrifice by Mangum and scored on a single to right by Heather McClean.
The Hawks had one last rally in them, getting a one-out double from Lindsay Champion.
Taylor Adams came in to run for Champion, moving to third when Drayton misplayed a bunt and scoring when the Trojans misplayed Graves’ grounder to short.
“They were hitting the ball hard,” Coats said of the Hawks. “But it was the little things – the routine plays — that we didn’t make that made the difference.
“Now we are in second place and not first place anymore, and I do not like that at all. So now we have to play that much harder and win the rest of our conference games”