Lady Tiger softball in the playoffs again
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 by Chuck Kelly
Matt Blackburn's Lady Tigers varsity softball team has gone to the Class 5A playoffs every year since he became head coach and this fifth year is no exception. After some struggling at the beginning of this season, the ladies (15-14, 8-6) wrapped up the regular season at home with a 6-2 victory over the Ellison Lady Eagles to capture the final playoff spot.
"Losing is not an option...I truly think this is where Belton tradition takes over," said Blackburn afterward, "My first year, we went to the first round of the playoffs....second year, third round....third year, first....fourth year, we went to the fourth round. This year, we'll just play as long as we can!"
Ellison shocked the fans last Friday by breaking out to a 2-0 lead in the very first inning. A double to right and a bloop single down the first base line scored the game's first run and a walk and an RBI double to the right field wall made it 2-0. Belton junior Alex Wilson then settled in for her first of five strikeouts in the game. Kirsten Whiteside nabbed an infield fly and a pop to Alyson Bishoff at first retired the side.
Meredith Langford led off in the bottom of the first for the Lady Tigers and beat out a bunt to first base. She stole second but the next three batters went back to the dugout in order.
Ellison went down in the second...second to first for the first out...and then, after the following Eagle walked, a spectacular double play when right fielder Skylar Stewart caught a deep flyball and quickly hurled a perfect strike all the way to Lauren Ramsey at third base who tagged out the runner for out number three.
Belton then picked up a run when Stewart blasted a double to left field and freshman Bekah Alcozer rapped a single to left. Then a double steal added another score for Belton when Alcozer's courtesy runner, Kaitlyn Dunahoo, drew a throw that allowed Stewart to race home.
Wilson went to work in the circle and shutout Ellison the rest of the way, allowing just six hits and no additional scores.
The Lady Tiger bats were pretty quiet the next two innings but down by one run, it was time to get the winning scores on the board....and they did with the coaches decision to go for another double steal.
With two outs, Langford went to first after being hit by a pitch. Catcher Shelby Hitt singled, moving Langford to third. With runners at the corners, first and third, Blackburn sent freshman Brittany Bass in as courtesy runner for Hitt.
"We've done this multiple times this year," the coach explained. "With Meredith at third, we put Brittany on first and I told her to jog to second and I told Meredith to go on the throw. It worked perfectly. While they worried about Brittany, Langford scored and the throw back to second for Bass sailed into center field. Brittany's fast enough to score and she got the go-ahead run."
The smiling freshman recounted the play afterwards. "Coach told me to get in a rundown with the second baseman to score Meredith and when they missed the throw to second, I just ran as fast as I could and when I was coming up on third, he (Blackburn) hollered go-go-go....and I went (and scored)."
The team had worked on speed all fall and it paid off .
One single but no score for the Lady Eagles in the sixth, but in the bottom of that inning Belton punched out three more "insurance" runs that eventually put the victory away.
Wilson led off the sixth with a hot single between third and shortstop and moved to second on an overthrown pickoff attempt. Stewart doubled to right to score Wilson. Alcozer crushed an infield single and the coach sent courtesy runners in...Dunahoo and Tiffany Beaver. Kirsten Whiteside completed the rally with a two-run double to center field.
After six innings, Belton held a 6-2 advantage and was just three outs away from the win and another trip to the playoffs.
The first Lady Eagle popped out to the pitcher, the next batter flew out to Dunahoo in center field and Wilson, appropriately, struck out the final batter she faced to close out the contest.
Now, it's onward and upward for the Lady Tigers.
Belton will face the 11-5A champions, Mesquite Horn (23-8, 10-0), Friday (tomorrow) for a Bi-District double header at Troy High School. Game times are set for 6 and 8 pm. In the event, the two schools split the games, they will meet for a third and deciding game at noon on Saturday.
The teams have met in the playoffs before. Belton lost 2-1 two years ago in a one-game showdown and last year Belton downed Horn in a three-game series.
Blackburn is optimistic, stating "I think we're ready and we'll be alright."
The Lady Tigers don't plan on playing Saturday....they will be Bi-District champs by then!