SOFTBALL: East Central makes history with win over state-ranked Round Rock

Baseball & softball roundup for May 24 edition

AREA TEAMS INCLUDED: Brackenridge, East Central, South San, Southwest.

By Mike Considine

Round Rock chose to play a one-game series against East Central. It was a decision the Dragons may now regret.

East Central freshman pitcher Jenise Ramirez hurled a two-hit shutout as the Hornets (23-13) blanked Round Rock (22-10-1) 4-0. All of East Central’s runs in the Region IV quarterfinals were scored in the first three innings May 11 at Marion.

“My concern was that Round Rock knocked us out (of the playoffs) two years ago at area,” East Central coach Maggi Welham said. “That has resonated with the girls. Our district was dominated by young pitchers this year, so we weren’t used to that quality of fast pitching.”

“But the girls were vigilant to get ready and they were prepared. It was good for them to get that redemption.

East Central, which earned its first top 10 state ranking with the win, advanced to the regional semifinals for the first time in school history. The Hornets, tied for No. 10 in the Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 6A rankings, were scheduled to play No. 6 O’Connor (27-6), the defending 6A state champion, in a best-of-three game semifinal series May 18-20.

“I want to see us compete,” Welham said. “I want to see them get everything they deserve.”

The Hornets were tied at No. 10 New Braunfels and Flower Mound. They shared the District 27-6A championship with New Braunfels.

In the postseason, with Ramirez (22-10) on the mound for a combined 45 innings, East Central won three-game series against Clark (20-10) and No. 9 Dripping Springs (32-9) in the first two rounds.

The freshman, who also plays the infield, didn’t allow a Round Rock baserunner to pass second base and East Central doused the Dragons’ only threat in the seventh inning. She struck out Dragons pitcher Maddy Azua for her 119th strikeout of the year and center fielder Avi Martinez made what Welham called an amazing catch on drive to the fence to keep Round Rock scoreless.

“Jen has had a great, great year,” Welham said. “I don’t let her hit because I want to keep her healthy. That takes a special kid, to say whatever y’all need, I’m going to do it.”

Freshman shortstop Izzy Estrada, who had the series-winning hit against Dripping Springs, sparked a three-run Hornets rally in the second inning. Senior Bri Barreto followed with an RBI triple.

“That drive down the right-field line,” Welham said, “let everybody know that we could hit (Azua) and we could score.”

Erin Villela brought in Barreto with a ground out and Bella Vidal scored on a sacrifice fly by Lorena Gamez to make it 3-0 after two innings.

In the third, Kyana Lipardo and Isa Hernandez singled to set up an insurance run. Lipardo gave the Hornets a four-run cushion on a wild pitch.

Smithson Valley silences South San softball’s bats in regional quarterfinal series

Hitting from the top to the bottom of the lineup was a trademark of District 28-5A champion South San (29-9), but the Bobcats ran into a pitcher in the Class 5A Region IV quarterfinals who mostly kept their bats quiet.

Smithson Valley pitcher Arianna Capek authored two shutouts in the three-game series at Marion that eliminated South San. The Bobcats’ former District 27-6A rivals, before both schools moved to Class 5A this year, prevailed 10-0 in Game 1 May 11, South San rebounded to win Game 2 5-4 May 12 and Smithson Valley (25-15) won 6-0 in the decisive game May 13.

“She has always pitched well against us,” South San coach Ray Castillo said of Capek. “In Game 1 we only had one hit and today we had four, but we didn’t hit in clutch situations. But it was exciting.

“Jocelyn (Perez, South San’s pitcher) is going to do what we need her to do. But we didn’t make enough plays.”

The Bobcats committed five errors in Game 3, which helped Smithson Valley sustain its rallies.

Capek retired the first 11 South San batters before senior Kat Alvarado singled in the fourth inning. Perez retired seven in a row before the Rangers erupted for three runs in the third, aided by two Bobcats errors. Two more South San errors combined with a two-run double from Bianca Shoquist and an RBI single from Abby Brand, who led off Game 2 with a home run, to complete the scoring.

“We knew we had to keep it clean to win,” Castillo said. “But we ended up giving them too many opportunities.”

South San loaded the bases with one out in the sixth behind consecutive singles from Danyelle Olvera and Leia Laque, but couldn’t chip away at the deficit.

In Game 2, South San built a 3-1 lead by the third inning, but the Rangers tied it in the fourth and went ahead 4-3 in the sixth. The Bobcats answered with a big inning in the bottom of the sixth.

A ground out by freshman Abigail Suarez brought in courtesy runner Sophia Bazaldua with tying run after Perez notched a leadoff single and Kryslyn Robles doubled. With the score 4-4, a squeeze bunt from Bobcats junior Kiara Martinez won the game.

“We played a lot of small ball,” Castillo said. “We made clutch hits and clutch plays.”

Brackenridge baseball can’t match Boerne Champion’s offense in area round

Midnight dawned for both of the area’s Cinderella baseball teams in the area round, as Brackenridge (17-14) and South San (22-13) were swept in their best-of-three series.

Both teams were bi-district champions as No. 4 seeds from District 27-5A and 28-5A, respectively.

South San, which reached the area round for first time since 2019, lost 11-1 and 10-0 to Smithson Valley (27-7). Brackenridge, the school’s first team to win consecutive bi-district titles, lost a heartbreaker to Boerne Champion (27-9-1) 3-0 in Game 1 and was routed 13-3 in Game 2 at Somerset.

Game 1 was scoreless through 5 1/2 innings with Angel Ramirez on the mound for the Eagles.

Brack had a chance to take the lead in the third when Miguel Sanchez and Caleb Contreras began the inning with consecutive singles. Sanchez also led off the seventh with a base hit, after Champion scored its runs in the sixth, but the Eagles couldn’t advance him past second base.

“In Game 1, we were right there,” second-year Brackenridge coach Bobby Behnsch said. “We just couldn’t get a key hit. In Game 2, we couldn’t get any momentum going. The game kind of got out of hand for us.”

The Chargers struck for six runs in the top of the first inning in the decisive game.

Brackenridge cut the lead in half in its portion of the inning. A walk to Ramirez and singles from Hector Quiroga and Josh Arzola loaded the bases. Gavin Perez produced an RBI single, Dany Ramirez draw a walk to force in a run and Sanchez had an RBI ground out.

“We had everyone healthy for the last month,” Behnsch said, “and it really showed in how we played.”

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