Highlanders ride 5-run first to run-rule win
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The Woodlands scored five runs in the first inning and kept rolling on the way to a 12-2 victory in Southwest’s first state tournament game.
The Dragons couldn’t prevent the Highlanders (39-3), ranked No. 1 in one state poll, from scoring until the fifth inning Friday at McCombs Field in Austin. Southwest (34-12), known for its potent offense, wasn’t able to score until the fourth and fifth innings in the Class 5A semifinal.
Although the Dragons scored a run in each of those innings, they couldn’t get the key hits they needed to produce a big rally. They left two runners stranded on base in both the fourth and fifth.
Defensively, they struggled to overcome five Southwest errors and several well-placed hits by The Woodlands. Five of the Highlanders’ runs were unearned.
The Woodlands finished second at state. Rival Deer Park (39-6) defeated the Highlanders 8-2 in an all-Houston-area final Saturday.
Shortstop Aubrey Leach led off the bottom of the first inning with a single for The Woodlands. Following a bunt single by Sidney Salmans, Kaitlyn Stavinoha drove an RBI single up the middle. The Highlanders made it 2-0 on a fielder’s choice. Emily Langkamp produced another run with a single to right field.
Ahead 3-0, Brittany Mann and Amy Cimera followed with run-scoring base hits as The Woodlands batted around in the first inning.
The Dragons’ five-run deficit grew in the second inning.
Southwest picked up its first hit – a double from junior Yanira Fernandez that hit the right-field fence on one hop – but had difficulty adjusting to Woodlands left-handed starting pitcher Abby Langkamp. Fernandez was left on second base.
“I don’t know whether it had to do with being on that big of a stage or not,” Hernandez said, “but I’m giving credit to their pitching. They both had a different style. Once we started figuring out the left-hander, I thought Coach (Richard) Jorgensen made a perfect move to bring in the second pitcher. That second pitcher (Caitlin Bartsch) had the best change-up I’ve seen in a very long time.
“We were not really ready for that. It may have played a role, being on that big stage. I guess we took a step in the right direction. I’m really looking forward to next season.”
Salmans started another Highlanders’ rally with her second bunt hit. An opposite-field single from cleanup hitter Shelby Dublin drove in one run. The Highlanders’ pitcher added another with a sacrifice fly.
Faced with a 7-0 deficit after two innings, the Dragons began putting better at-bats together.
With The Woodlands’ outfield playing shallow, senior Amanda Sanchez made its center fielder chase down her double. On a ground out by Kristal Salinas, Sanchez aggressively motored home from second base to score Southwest’s first run.
Senior center fielder Liz Phillips beat out a dribbler down the third-base line for an infield single and Kayla Arguello walked on four pitches, but the Dragons couldn’t narrow the deficit any further and the Highlanders matched the run in their half of the third on an infield single from Salmans.
In the fourth, the Dragons found success by hitting to the opposite field. Sophomore Caitlin Terrazas, who had relieved Kamerie Vidales in the pitcher’s circle, and senior Gabby Flores (2-for-3, RBI) slammed back-to-back doubles to right field. Courtesy runner Megan Hernandez scored on Flores’ hit to make it 8-2.
Flores’ shot found the wall.
“It was just like any other pitcher,” she said. “It was a little nerve-wracking, because I knew my teammate had done her job. I just needed to follow through, and I did.”
A Southwest error allowed a run in The Woodlands’ half of the fourth and a sacrifice fly from Leach increased the Highlanders’ lead to eight runs.
The Dragons had another opportunity for a big inning in the fifth. Phillips and Arguello began the inning with a pair of walks on four pitches apiece. Jorgensen brought in Bartsch to relieve Langkamp (26-0). The senior retired three batters in a row to prevent the Dragons from scoring.
Bartsch gave up one hit and struck out three in two innings. Flores had the Dragons’ hit, on a slow roller down the first-base line in the sixth, an inning after she threw out a runner at second base.
“It was the kind of hard, because there was a big difference,” Flores said, referring to the contrast between the two Highlanders pitchers. “But, in that little time, you have to find a way to make something happen.
“The second hit wasn’t anything like the first, but whatever works and gets you on (base), that’s what you want to do.”
Terrazas retired the Highlanders in order in the fifth. She allowed two earned runs in four innings of work.
The Woodlands ended the game in the sixth with a two-run, pinch-hit double from senior Amy Harvey. The Highlanders finished with 13 hits. Southwest had six.
“As far as San Antonio and even at the San Marcos tournament,” Hernandez said, “there was never a team that had that style of play – that had perfected small ball to the extent that The Woodlands did. They were the first team in 45 games.
“I even had the track team come out and slap at the ball (in practices during the week). We were taking an extra second here or an extra second there. They took advantage of those bobbles. All credit goes to them.”