Kirsten Whiteside reached base four times, Alex Wilson singled home the go-ahead run in the third inning and Bekah Alcozer launched a three-run homer over the leftfield wall in the fifth inning as the Lady Tigers beat South Grand Prairie 4-0 last Friday night at the Waco ISD Softball Complex.
The victory by Belton sets up a playoff series in the Area Finals against Flower Mound, who dispatched Grapevine 12-4 last Friday night. Flower Mound won District 5-5A with a 9-1 record and is 23-8-1 overall.
Jessica Gonzales walked and Shelby Alexander singled to start the first for the Lady Warriors. Haltom Shepherd grounded out to Brittany Bass at third base. Sidney Holman then struck out Jordan Burke and Janely Cruz to end the South Grand Prairie effort to crack into the run column.
Whiteside singled and stole second to the start the Lady Tigers' half of the first inning. But the left-handed pitcher Alexander struck the next three hitters and the first inning ended 0-0.
Holman faced Isabella Hurd to start the second inning. Hurd hit a dying liner to short centerfield. Kaitlyn Dunahoo, who was playing Hurd to hit deep, sprinted to make a diving catch for first out. Desiree Cavazos struck out looking and Holman made a diving toss to Alyson Bishoff on Taylor Kasper's slow roller to end the inning.
Alcozer's hard ground out the shortstop began the second inning. Skylar Stewart then walked. Holman singled Stewart to second. Holman was replaced on base by courtesy runner Kaitlyn Jones. Stewart and Jones were sacrificed to third and second bases respectively on Shelby Hitt's sacrifice bunt. Bass was unable to knock the runners home, as she stuck out and there was no score after two innings.
After the Lady Tigers held South Grand Prairie in check in the third inning, Whiteside singled and stole second. With one out, Wilson laced a single up the middle and Whiteside motored around third base to score to put Belton (20-11) up 1-0.
Holman started ratcheting up the heat. The pitches of Holman, combined with the poise and control of catcher Shelby Hitt, started handcuffing Lady Warriors hitters. Five of the next seven hitters struck out over the fourth and fifth innings, as Belton continued to cling to the one-run lead.
Whiteside reached first to lead off the fifth. Tiffany Beaver singled and put runners at first and second. Following a Wilson out, Alyson Bishoff hit a grounder to the pitcher who forced Whiteside out at third. Jones came on to run for Bishoff. Alcozer, fresh off of a regional track appearance for the Lady Tigers in track-and-field, lined a 3-1 pitch over the left field wall to give Belton a commanding 4-0 lead. As Alcozer rounded the bases, the Belton fans exploded with cheers, applause, high-fives and hugs. The scene was reminiscent to the previous Friday night in Belton, when Alcozer hit the homer that helped dent Waco Midway's perfect district campaign.
South Grand Prairie put two runners on with one out in the sixth inning. Hitt went out to talk to Holman briefly and went back behind the plate. Holman (17-7) went out to strike out the next two Lady Warriors and struck out the side in the seventh to claim the win. She only allowed two hits, while walking four and striking out a season high 14 hitters.
South Grand Prairie ended their season at 9-5 in District 7-5A, good for third place and 17-12 overall.
Despite a six-hit effort, Belton coach Matt Blackburn felt the offensive effort.
"We didn't put a bat on the ball nearly enough," said Blackburn. "We left a lot of runners on base and swung at poor pitches. We're probably going to play the No. 9 team in the state and we're going to have to get a lot more focused at the plate."
Whiteside echoed Blackburn's thoughts.
"I thought we played pretty well, but we could have done more offensively," said Whiteside. "She (Holman) gave up two hits and those were balls that just got by. Defensively, we played great."
With a series with No. 9 Flower Mound coming up, the team expects a far different result from the 6-0 loss in an unscheduled game that came about February 21 on very short notice during the Southlake Carroll Tournament.
"We'll prepare for that series just like we prepare for every game," said Whiteside. "In that game, we were in a new tournament and just getting started. We made errors and didn't really have a bond. Now that we have created that bond, we been able to put together a winning streak."