SOFTBALL: Undefeated East Central aiming for long playoff run

Hungry Hornets pitching shutouts, winning close ones



It’s said that the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. That’s unquestionably true, but it’s clear that East Central is off on the right foot.

Two weeks and 10 games into the season, East Central was undefeated. The Hornets picked up three wins in Week 2, including a 10-7 decision over Brandeis Feb. 24 and a pair of shutouts.

East Central has qualified for the area round in three of the last four seasons. The Hornets want to make a deeper playoff run this season with a team heavy on both seniors and sophomores.

“We put a lot into our pre-season,” second-year East Central coach Meagan McCutcheon said. “We wanted to prepare ourselves for the postseason. We want to make it further than East Central ever has.

“Playing Johnson, Smithson Valley and Brandeis is a big step forward. The kids have responded incredibly so far.”

Coming off a six-game sweep of pool play at the tough Brenham Tournament (which didn’t have a championship bracket), the Hornets broke a 1-1 tie with Brandeis (4-3) by scoring twice in the second inning. East Central broke the game open with a five-run fourth.

Sophomore Gracie Becerra hit a home run and drove in two runs. Floresville transfer Sierra Valadez also had two RBI. Kendall Talley scored three runs.

“That was a big win,” McCutcheon said. “We prepared a lot for their quickness, and how they’ll bunt in any situation and any part of the lineup. The kids were quick, and they always knew where the next play was going to be.”

Hornets senior Madison Strunk pitched back-to-back shutouts in the Judson/East Central Tournament, before the weather forced its cancellation. Strunk limited Uvalde to three hits in a 12-0 decision Feb. 26 and Madison to one hit Feb. 27.

“She has goals she wants to accomplish,” McCutcheon said, “not just for the season, but inning-by-inning. She’s meeting those goals, and they turn into victories.”

Against Madison, Cara Johnson drilled a two-run double and senior shortstop Haydi Bugarin (3-for-3, 2 RBIs) produced an RBI double in a seven-run, fourth-inning rally. In the Uvalde game, five of the Hornets’ 10 hits were doubles. Becerra drove in three runs.

East Central has claimed four comeback victories, including one from a six-run deficit.

“I’m very happy with the way they’ve come back and the maturity they’ve shown,” McCutcheon said. “I have experience at every position.”

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