Lady Tigers advance to second round
Tuesday, 15 May 2012 by Chuck Kelly
The talented and scrappy Belton Lady Tigers advance in the softball state playoffs this evening. They travel to the Waco ISD complex to take on District 10-5A's Garland Rowlett Lady Eagles in the Class 5A Area round.
The best two-out-of-three series, all games to be played in Waco, begins with the first pitch at 6:00pm. The second game will also start at 6 Friday evening and a third and deciding game, if needed, is scheduled to begin at 8:00pm.
Belton sent the undefeated-in-regular season District 11-5A champs, Mesquite Horn (24-9), back home with a third-game 3-1 victory at the Troy Trojanettes Softball Field last Saturday afternoon.
The two schools had split a doubleheader Friday evening in Waxahachie. Horn edged the Lady Tigers 8-7 in a windy game one. Belton rang up five runs in the first inning, added two more scores in the six and took a 7-3 lead into the seventh for what surely would be a Tiger victory.
Not so....Horn socked five hits and Belton committed a pair of errors in the final at-bat for a five run come-from-behind 8-7 Mesquite Horn win. (Half of Horn's runs were unearned)
A short time later, the Lady Tigers got even --- they didn't wait for the final inning either in the second game of the double-header! A dozen Belton batters went to the plate in the bottom of the first inning and when they all had returned to the dugout, Matt Blackburn's ladies had piled up a seven run lead. Singles by Shelby Hitt, Lauren Rramsey and Skylar Stewart, a double from Alex Wilson and a two RBI homer over the center field fence by freshman Bekah Alcozer (plus a walk and a batter hit by a pitch), served notice that the Lady Tigers weren't about ready to go home. Horn put up six scores later in the contest but Belton answered with two more and evened the series with a 9-6 victory.
"We knew that we had to come out and get this game," said Alcozer afterward.
It was home for a short night's rest then as the Lady Tigers dreamed about the deciding match Saturday.
Belton fans that included BISD board president Randy Pittenger, coach Frances Garmon, a number of supportive Tiger baseball players and a host of family members and friends settled into the stands at Troy as the two teams faced off at noon. It was a hot day with the winds blowing 30-35 miles per hour from the center field fence, blowing infield sand into the faces of the batters and umpires and sending any ball that was hit into the air sailing away from fielders trying to run it down for an out.
Blackburn had commented "We ought to be in the second round now" but his team had to finish the first round off.
He sent junior ace Alex Wilson, winner of game two (with a save by Meredith Langford) to the circle for number three. Wilson tossed a three hitter against the wild wind that threatened to spoil the trajectory of every pitch. She recorded five strikeouts, walked four and allowed just three earned runs off three hits.
Both teams had trouble adjusting to the wind for three innings but in the top of the fourth, Alyson Bishoff flew out to shallow left field and Wilson singled but was caught in a rundown as she tried to steal second. Then, with two outs, Lauren Ramsey walked and Skylar Stewart shot a fly to right field that was dropped, scoring Ramsey and allowing her to race all the way to second. The third out, a 3-2 strike left her stranded but Belton had a slim one-run lead.
Wilson had blanked Horn for four innings but in the bottom of the fifth, Horn singled to left and then circled the bases to third on an overthrow to first. The next batter chopped an RBI single to right and the game was tied at one run each.
Belton loaded the bases with just one out but couldn't bring anyone home. Three left on base,
In the seventh, Langford walked with one out. Shelby Hitt sacrificed to third advancing Langford. Bishoff slammed a double to deep left field, scoring Langford and Wilson rapped a single to score Bishoff....Belton increased its lead to 3-1, needing only three outs for the Bi-District win.
Wilson took matters into her own hands ---she snatched an infield hit for out number one, grabbed a bouncer and threw the batter out at first for out number two and on a 2-2 pitch, fanned the final batter for the 3-1victory and send the lady Tigers on to round two.
How did that final strike feel? "Good...really, really good...amazing!" Wilson responded. "We struggled a little bit with the wind at first, then we started hitting better and momentum built."
Even that wind couldn't blow the grin off head coach Matt Blackburn's face."I'm extremely proud of them right now. When you're the fourth place team, you aren't supposed to beat the first place...but we did," he said. "With a young team, I can't be prouder, they competed to the end. We've got a chance, if we keep taking care of business, to make a little playoff run. Anything's possible! "
The Lady Tigers take that "possibility" to Waco this evening and will try to make their dream come true in the best two-out-of-three showdown with Garland Rowlett. First pitch is 6:00pm.