Kind of strange, but Nancy Hopper had trouble wiping a silly grin from her face Wednesday night. It was odd because Huntsville’s varsity softball team, the team Hopper coaches, had just dropped a 9-8 decision to B.F. Terry in the season opener at Kate Barr Ross Park.

Hopper wasn’t still basking in the glory of last season’s fabulous playoff run, and she hadn’t lost her mind in the freezing cold that numbed toes and sent all but the most hardy softball fans to the house Tuesday.

No, Hopper was giddy because the Lady Hornets battled back from a 9-3 deficit and nearly pulled off an improbable comeback against a solid-hitting team from Rosenberg.

“That was a great game,” Huntsville’s veteran coach said. “As coaches and players, we learned a lot about ourselves tonight. You hope to learn these things in scrimmages; this one counts.

“But I keep thinking about the fourth inning. The girls came in after they scored a bunch of runs and they said, ‘They’re not beating us, the cold is beating us. We’ve got to get focused on playing the game.’ The girls did that. They started playing and I was very impressed with their comeback. It was a team effort, too, not just one or two players.”

After falling behind 9-3, the Lady Hornets rallied for four runs in the bottom of the fourth. Elaine Burzynski ripped a two-run double that scored Sara Vaughn and Tayler Gray. Heather Adian drove Burzynski in, and Adian scored later on a double to the gap in left-center by Nena Gibson.

Huntsville reliever Shelby Smith then shut down the Lady Rangers for the next three innings. The Lady Hornets put together another rally in the bottom of the seventh, but they left the tying and winning runs on base when Vaughn lined to third for the game’s final out.

Gibson went 3-for-4, while Gray and Vaugh added two hits each.

Pitcher Ashley Crosby took the loss after allowing 11 hits and nine runs in four innings of work.

“Ashley’s been doing a great job, but tonight she had trouble getting her focus off of the cold,” Hopper said. “She’s going to have those nights when her pitches aren’t working, but I’m going to take a hit on that tonight. I should have made a (pitching) change sooner. This is what predistrict games are for, though, to work on things.”

The Lady Hornets will be back at work today when they travel to the Bryan tournament. Huntsville plays Allen at 5 p.m. at Central Park in College Station. Win or lose, they play again tonight at 6:30 against either Fort Bend Elkins or Corpus Christi Carroll.

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