District 28-5A Eagle Pass Winn 24, Southside 0 (5 innings) (rescheduled from Friday)
District 27-6A East Central 7, Clemens 3 South San 10, New Braunfels 4 Smithson Valley 9, Steele 5 Judson 3, Wagner 1 District 27-5A Burbank 10, Sam Houston 0 (6 innings) Kennedy 6, Jefferson 3 Edison 8, Highlands 7 Memorial 5, Lanier 1
TAPPS 3-I Central Catholic 11, San Antonio Christian 3 (rescheduled from Friday)
No games scheduled
No games scheduled
District 27-6A East Central, 2, Clemens 0 (suspended, 2 outs, bottom 3rd; rescheduled for Monday) Judson 6, Wagner 1 (suspended, 2 outs, bottom 3rd; no reschedule date) Smithson Valley at Steele (ppd., rescheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday at Wimberley) South San at New Braunfels (suspended, rescheduled for Monday) District 27-5A Brackenridge vs. Highlands(ppd., rescheduled for 4:30 p.m. Monday at Diz Reeves Diamond) Kennedy vs. Memorial(score unavailable) Lanier vs. Burbank(ppd., rescheduled for 4:30 p.m. Monday at Reeves Field No. 2) Jefferson 2, Edison 0
District 27-6A Smithson Valley 11, Steele 0 (5 innings) (rescheduled from Friday)
Monday, May 1 games
District 27-6A New Braunfels 5, South San 1 (completion of game suspended Friday) East Central 6, Clemens 0 (completion of game suspended Friday with East Central leading 2-0 in bottom 3rd) District 27-5A
Brackenridge 9, Highlands 1 (rescheduled from Friday) Burbank 5, Lanier 0 (completion of game suspended Friday)
Kennedy 15, Memorial 1 (5 innings) (rescheduled from Friday)
East Central and Southwest have raised the competitive levels of their programs over the last four years. Three players who’ve helped construct those foundations of success have cast their lot with an Our Lady of the Lake University program on a similar fast track to success.
Southwest senior Kamerie Vidales, the Express-News area softball player of the year, on June 4 joined Dragons teammate Amanda Sanchez and East Central rival Taylor Doege in committing to the Saints. Doege and Sanchez each made their college choices in October.
“Those are the types of kids that are going to just continue to make our kids better,” said fifth-year Our Lady of the Lake coach James Kling, including Saints recruits from powerhouses Hays and O’Connor in the comment.
“When they get up here, they’re used to giving it their all every game and playing a tough schedule. We need to get kids that love softball and want to continue playing hard.”
Our Lady of the Lake was the Red River Athletic Conference champion, winning first place in the regular season and taking the conference tournament championship. The Saints fashioned a 39-12-1 record and qualified for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics national tournament.
OLLU is stockpiling quite a cadre of former Southwest players. Saints senior Katrisha Arocha pitched for the Dragons before transferring from Texas A&M-Kingsville to become an NAIA honorable mention all-American with OLLU.
Sanchez said the opportunity to play with Arocha again helped make the school a good fit for her.
“We’re really close friends,” she said. “I know a couple of girls on the team. That’s what was really a motivation to me. I’d be excited to play with them.”
Vidales, Sanchez and their Southwest teammates produced a record-setting season, advancing to the Class 5A state semifinals. The Dragons won the District 28-5A championship and finished with a sterling 35-12-1 record.
Making her college choice before the season helped Sanchez play more with a calmer demeanor during her senior season.
“The season was amazing,” Sanchez said. “It’s like the same team we’d been playing with for a long time, but we all learned a little more. It was a great experience, being able to make it that far for our school and our community.
“It was an amazing feeling, knowing that everyone on the team all had each other’s back. I let loose, knowing that if I messed up, I had the team behind me. I could go all out and dive (to make a catch).”
Doege, who helped East Central compile a 24-8 record and reach the area round of the playoffs, doesn’t anticipate any problems in adapting to her former Dragons district rivals as Saints teammates.
“It was a rivalry, but not a rivalry off the field,” Doege said. “Kamerie and I have talked outside of softball. I’ve never really talked to Amanda, but Kamerie and I have gotten along very well. It won’t be hard to become friends with them.”
The Hornets standout and Kling have been in contact since her sophomore season. She said the Saints coach had seen her play on travel teams, as well as with East Central, and Doege has attended OLLU games.
Before committing, Doege took a visit to the school to help decide between OLLU and Southwestern University in Georgetown. On the visit, she was surprised to see so many familiar faces among the Saints players.
“I played against a bunch of those girls in high school,” she said, “but I had no idea they went there. I knew of their abilities. I knew it was a very good softball team. It wasn’t hard to make a decision.”
Vidales will softball and volleyball for the Saints. The 6-foot senior will be an outside hitter in volleyball. In softball, she likely will fit in at first base, according to Kling. The first baseman-pitcher chose OLLU over the University of the Incanate Word.
“I was going to focus on softball,” she said, who was a hitting MVP as a middle blocker in volleyball. “It was a plus to go to school to play both but, if I could, I was going to try.”
Vidales batted .465 with 12 doubles, 11 home runs and 43 RBIs. As a pitcher, she posted a 15-7 record with a 3.33 ERA. She will play in the Texas Girls Coaches Association all-star game in July.
“They had a successful season and a successful team,” Vidales said. “I felt like I could help out the team with my (hitting).”
Her home run power is expected to fill a need for the Saints.
“I’m counting on her big bat,” Kling said. “She hits the ball hard every time. I think that’s something we’ve been lacking the last couple of years.”
Vidales was a first-team all-district selection. Doege and Sanchez were chosen for the 28-5A second team.
Doege was a .300 hitter with three home runs and 13 RBIs for the Hornets. The first baseman-pitcher was 9-2 with a 2.59 ERA in the pitcher’s circle. Sanchez carried a .343 batting average with three triples and 10 RBIs. The left fielder stole 10 bases.
“Amanda gets after it. She can put a bunt down, she’s a great slap hitter and a very good baserunner,” Kling said. “Taylor hits the ball very well. She could eventually turn into a No. 3 hitter. She consistently hits the ball in the gaps and occasionally hits home runs. We’ll work with her as a pitcher for us as well.”
Although some struggle with their transition from the military into the working world, new Central Catholic football coach L.D. Green Sr. has hit the ground running.
Just seven years after submitting his resignation to the United States Army, Green feels fortunate to have landed his first head coaching job. He had been an assistant under Central Catholic athletic director Carlos Enrico from 2007, shortly after leaving the army, to 2010.
Nonetheless, he said he was surprised June 8 when Enrico called to offer him the position vacated days earlier when Buttons coach Don Byrd retired. Green accepted the job June 10.
“I did 24 years in the military, and all 24 years I knew I wanted to be a coach,” Green said. “I’ve wanted to coach since I left college (in 1981).
“One of my mentors told me that it was remarkable that seven or eight years later to be the head football coach at a school with a reputation of being a great program. I hadn’t thought of it in that context. Even now, I’m still humbled by it. I definitely feel blessed.”
In the last two years of Green’s previous stint at Central Catholic, the Buttons compiled a 17-7 record. In the three years since, Central Catholic has gone 15-18. The 2013 team was 4-7 with a 2-3 mark in TAPPS District 2-I.
“Coach Green has a passion for helping students succeed in the classroom and on the football field,” Enrico said in a news release about Green. ‘He believes in the Catholic Marianist mission of our school and has experienced success everywhere he has coached.
“I wholeheartedly believe he has the knowledge to be successful here for a long time. He brings renewed energy that will resonate well with our student athletes and parents.
“Our alumni will quickly learn that his dedication to success is second to none. Coach Green will help our kids and is the best choice to lead our football program. I am excited to be working with him.”
Green was an offensive line coach at Trinity University the last two seasons. In his previous stint at Central Catholic, he coached defensive backs, the defensive line, special teams and was the strength and conditioning
coordinator. He was in charge of the defensive backs in 2007 and 2008. For the next two years, his position responsibility was the d-line.
“It was absolutely wonderful,” Green said. “It was my first coaching job after being out of the army. I retired April 30 and ended up getting the job May 2. It worked out just right.
“I learned a lot. We definitely had a good run and accomplished good things.”
Meanwhile, he also was earning a bachelor of arts degree in history at the University of Texas-San Antonio. Green also had multi-tasked while in the army. He coached at Moanalua High School in Honolulu and Ft. Campbell High School in Kentucky to gain three years of experience before his military retirement.
Green submitted his retirement paperwork while serving a four-month deployment in Iraq in 2007.
“The military probably helped develop the sense of leadership,” Green said. “You always strive to be in charge. You first learn to follow, then you teach others how to execute. That makes for great units.”
He helped coach an undefeated team at Trinity and coached a state championship squad at Moanalua. His experience coaching offense, defense and special teams, Green said, has prepared him to run Central Catholic’s program.
“Being on both sides of the ball, if I haven’t played it, I’ve coached it,” Green said. “That has helped me understand the game totally.
“The resources are here at Central Catholic. It’s a matter of the guys buying in and feeling the love. If the guys buy in, then you can make the magic happen. It’s just like the domination of San Antonio Spurs.”
Green said he wouldn’t change the offensive or defensive systems the Buttons have been running under Byrd. He’s also hoping to retain much of the staff and benefit from their perspective to maintain continuity in the program heading into this fall.
“It’s very overwhelming, the love and support I’m feeling from my former players,” Green said. “I’m just happy they’ve accepted me at Central, as part of their fraternity and their family.”
As coach, Green feels a responsibility to impart that academic success goes hand in hand with athletic achievement.
“I’m going to bring the program up, but I’m going to mold you in the full circle of life,” Green said. “I want to make you a better man, a better husband, an outstanding leader and just a great citizen.”
Central Catholic should return a big chunk of its offense. Senior quarterback Joseph Nava ran for 811 yards and passed for 801. His brother, Jaime Nava, also is back. Junior Jacob Rodriguez and Jimin Suh rushed for 597 and 264 yards, respectively. The first four receivers were lost to graduation, but Joe Aldrete and Troy Lozano each had 63 reception yards.
Once the first season ends, Green and his staff will determine what modifications might need to be made for 2015. There is no five-year plan for him to follow, but he expects the Buttons to be competitive from Game 1.
“It’s more of a three-year plan,” Green said. “Once the season’s over and we give the seniors a great season, I’ll meet with the juniors and sophomores. Again, I don’t expect any changes scheme-wise. We’ll just look at where we can get better in the W-L column and compete better.
“Then we’ll see if we can get that district championship.”
Until a Southwest team advances one game further into the postseason, Team 22 will be the standard by which future softball squads are judged.
The Dragons’ large, vociferous community of supporters likely will see to that.
Team 22, in case you’re wondering, is the name that stuck with this year’s Southwest Class 5A state semifinalists, whose season ended last Friday with a 12-2 loss to eventual runner-up The Woodlands at McCombs Park in Austin. The significance extends beyond the mere fact that it was the school’s 22nd softball team. Just as its achievements surpassed those of its predecessors.
The concept that essentially each team was as unique as each snowflake was borrowed from University of Michigan coach Carol Hutchins, whom Dragons coach Sandy Hernandez heard at a softball clinic. It was intended to help inspire Hernandez’s senior-laden team to greatness.
“Every year is a new team, different than any team in the past,” the sixth-year Southwest coach explained. “I knew this team would be different, with five seniors. At tryouts, I gave each of them an acceptance letter that said ‘Welcome to Team 22.
“I wanted them to know that this year’s team would be different, that I wanted them to be the team they knew how to be and the best team they could be.”
The Team 22 label stuck.
“When the season got going and we were so successful,” Hernandez said, “everybody in the community got into it.”
The message behind the Team 22 concept also stuck a chord with her team.
“Every season that was cut short, it was very frustrating,” Southwest senior Gabby Flores said, “but every year we got knocked down was another reminder that we deserved more. That we needed to get (to state) and we needed to find a way to get there.”
As the season progressed, the District 28-5A champions exuded increased confidence and mental toughness. They also saw their supporting crowd grow in size.
After helping to set a stadium attendance record at St. Mary’s University in the Region IV finale, Dragons fans comprised an estimated two-thirds of the announced crowd of 1,300 Friday on the University of Texas campus. Some held “Team 22” signs.
“It was great,” said Southwest senior catcher Gabby Flores, who collected two hits. “It felt like it wasn’t real, because everyone on the team had dreamed about making it that far. It was kind of like a dream come true.
“Our community support is so great. They’re behind us no matter what. We’re very blessed for all of that.”
Southwest’s first state-tournament softball team fell behind The Woodlands early and couldn’t manufacture runs in bunches as it had throughout the season. Errors also proved an unexpected obstacle. Southwest committed five which fed Highlanders rallies.
The Dragons faced a 7-0 deficit after two innings and never were closer than 8-2 afterward.
“The whole season was a learning experience,” Flores said. “The girls have grown so much. We’ve grown so much as a team. This game, didn’t show how good w e really are. You’re not going to show that in every game. That’s the way things are.
“But I believe in everything my teammates can do.”
Those were the sort of thoughts that ran through Flores’ mind as she was leaving McCombs Field Friday. She reflected on the journey she and her fellow seniors had undertaken, which included four district titles and postseason runs.
“It has really taught me about leadership,” Flores said. “My team is just amazing. The support is great. I believe in them so much and they believe in me so much. It was great to walk out of there, even if we didn’t win.”
Pitcher-first baseman Kamerie Vidales, center fielder Liz Phillips, third baseman Kayla Arguello, Flores and Sanchez were fourth-year varsity players who’ll be lost to graduation. Phillips and Vidales were starters throughout their Dragons careers.
Arguello will play softball next year at Hill College, a two-year school in Hillsboro. Sanchez will continue her career at Our Lady of the Lake. Phillips and Vidales also plan to play softball at the next level, but haven’t chosen their schools yet. Flores will concentrate on academics at the University of Texas-San Antonio and hopes to eventually become a veterinarian.
“This group of girls, it’s been an honor for a coach to work with them,” Hernandez said. “All five of them came and worked hard daily. They saw how to fail and how to succeed. The best compliment I can give them is how much they’ve matured in four years.
“They made it their goal to go to the top of the mountain, and they did it. It’s going to be hard to fill those shoes.”
Southwest will return five starters who’ll form the nucleus of Team 23.
Caitlin Terrazas will return for her third year as a starting pitcher and fellow sophomore Amanda Cerda, who pitched well against San Marcos in the regional final series, should step into Vidales’ pitching role. Miranda Gonzales, the designated hitter most of the season, will inherit Flores’ catching duties, after showing herself to be a capable replacement against San Marcos.
The senior double-play combination of Kristal Salinas at shortstop and Yanira Fernandez at second base will be a team strength. Right fielder Faith Aguilar is likely to be joined by sophomores Megan Hernandez in left field, who gained experience in the semifinals, and Isabel Soto in center.
When the team reconvenes next spring, it will need to identify the new first baseman and designated hitter.
The pieces seem to be in place for the Dragons to pursue a share of their sixth-consecutive district title, either outright as in 2014 or shared, although the realigned 28-6A promises to be strong from top to bottom. The challenge will be for a handful of players to shine in larger roles as they aim to minimize the loss of on-field production from Southwest’s most-accomplished senior class to date.
“I think Team 22 is going to be one of the best teams ever to come out of Southwest,” Hernandez said. “Next year’s team will have a different style of play. They won’t all be power hitters coming back. We’re going to have to get players on base and move them up.
“They’re going to have to fill in. They’re never going to replace those five seniors.”
Team 23 already may have the fuel for a successful 2015 season. Hernandez suggested that the loss to the The Woodlands might do for next year’s team what a 2011 loss to San Benito did for the graduating seniors, in terms of motivation and goal-setting.
“I think that group learned a lot from that loss,” Hernandez said. “Hopefully, this group will learn a lot from losing (the game Friday) and have the itch to return. Hopefully, this gets them going.”
It only took Jongregory Gonzales one at-bat at the 31st Valley-Hi Optimist Club high school baseball all-star game to demonstrate why he was a key member of Brackenridge’s team the last three years.
Gonzales walked with one out in the third inning and scored the go-ahead run for the victorious Sub-5A team on an error with one out in the third. The Brack senior and his teammates defeated the Class 5A/Private School team 6-4 last Saturday at the Frank Tejeda Complex.
“It’s a great opportunity to showcase your talent,” said Gonzales, who hopes to make the University of Texas-San Antonio team as a non-scholarship player. “To show scouts and people you can play baseball.
“Every pitcher did well. The pitching surprised me. I didn’t think they’d be that good.”
The game, after all, is intended as a showcase for the area’s best senior players – as well as an opportunity to help the Optimists to generate scholarships for worthy students.
Nine area players, representing eight schools, competed in the game. Players were divided along classification lines, creating a David-and-Goliath situation. In previous years, it was an East vs.West game.
“I was kind of intimidated (by 5A) when I was watching in-and-out ,” Lanier’s Hector DeHoyos said, referring to pre-game warm-ups, “but when we scored in the first inning, I knew we were good.”
Gonzales primarily was a courtesy runner as a freshman. Throughout his career, his speed has presented problems for opponents. It was 5A’s turn.
With the score 1-1, Gonzales drew a base on balls and stole second. Sub-5A’s Bubba Miculka, Seguin’s ace pitcher who had dueled Antonian left-hander Troy Garcia on even terms, hit a misplayed grounder that sparked a three-run rally by sending the Eagles runner home.
“When I got those four balls,” said Gonzales, who singled later, “I just wanted to make them make a throw.”
Jacob Arevalo of Pleasanton was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Michael DeLeon of Brennan hit a sacrifice fly for a 4-1 lead. DeHoyos kept the 5A team scoreless over the fourth and fifth innings.
Fittingly, the relief stint ended when DeHoyos retired his namesake – 5A outfielder Hector DeHoyos of Holmes – for the final out in the top half of the fifth.
It, therefore, seemed eerily appropriate when the other DeHoyos made a diving catch in left field on a sinking fly ball from Randolph’s Colin Toth that ended the fifth with a Sub-5A runner on third base.
“It felt good to be out there with these great players,” the pitching DeHoyos said. “I felt like I pitched a good game. My curve ball and change-up were working. As long as I could get ground balls, my team was there to help.
“I was throwing bullpens last week, just to get ready.”
The teams traded runs in the first two innings.
Donaldo Perez – who shares his name with his father, Somerset’s coach – broke the ice after lining a base hit that got by the 5A outfielder for a two-base error in the first inning. Perez then scored the unearned run on a passed ball.
By the way, the elder Donaldo Perez was an assistant to Sub-5A coach Romeo Barrera of Burbank.
Garcia reached base on an error in the second inning and scored after reaching third on a passed ball. Brandon Colorado (MacArthur) supplied the tying RBI single for 5A.
Central Catholic right-hander Josh Godfrey, who singled for 5A in the fourth, gave his team a chance to win by allowing just one sub-5A run between the fourth and sixth.
“It was very exciting to get that one hit,” Godfrey said. “Then I could go pitch with a lot of momentum going into the next inning.”
Godfrey said he didn’t realize he’d signed on for such strenuous duty, but was a willing volunteer when 5A coach Xavier Garcia of Brandeis asked him if he felt like pitching..
“I didn’t really expect it,” said Godfrey, who may try to earn a spot on the Blinn Junior College team, “but the coach asked me if I could. I said I’d love to do it. He said, ‘Go in now.’
“I felt pretty good. It was pretty exciting, seeing guys from all around the city. It was a really phenomenal experience.”
O’Connor’s Billy Craft made it 4-2 in the sixth with a double to right-center, drving in Enrique Ruiz (Brandeis) and enabling the 5A group to set up a rousing finish. It was the only run Memorial pitcher Ivan DeAnda surrendered, while striking out five and giving up four hits over three innings.
Sub-5A had added a little bit of cushion in the sixth when Brandon Kerr (Somerset) scored after drawing a walk. Gonzales and Somerset teammate Kevin Vasquez moved Kerr along with base hits, allowing the utility player to take home on a wild pitch.
DeAnda helped his own cause by slamming an opposite-field double in the bottom of the eighth. DeHoyos followed with a sacrifice fly that brought in Victor Gonzalez (Natalia) for a 6-2 advantage.
The Lanier standout, who intends to try to walk on at Sul Ross State University, understood his role with one out, runners on second and third and his team looking for an insurance run.
“It felt good,” he said. “With runners in scoring position, I was always taught to hit it to the right side and try to get the run in.”
In the ninth, facing a 6-2 deficit, 5A’s Adrian Lopez (Jay) and Jameal Wolford (Wagner) reached base on errors ahead of an RBI single from Trevor Antrim (Lee). A walk to Taft’s Michael Hernandez loaded the bases with one out.
Kennedy’s Isiaha Garcia took a throw at first base as a run scored on a ground out, pulling 5A within 6-4. Garcia checked for Antrim, wheeled and fired home to complete a game-ending double play.
“I saw (the grounder) go to second base,” Garcia said. “They had bases loaded, so I knew they’d try for two more. As soon as I caught it, I looked and I could see the coach was sending the runner, sure enough. As soon as I threw it, I knew I had him.”
Garcia, a standout tight end during football season, was glad to be selected from tryouts for the game.
“I had fun,” the prospective St. Philip’s College student said. “It was a good group of guys. It was nice to see old friends and make new friends. There were a lot of friendly people here.”
Proceeds from the game went toward the Optimist Club scholarship fund.
Valley-Hi Optimists All-Star Game
Central Catholic – Josh Godfrey; East Central – Russell Brown.
Brackenridge – Jongregory Gonzales; Burbank – Jonathan Alanis, Tristan Settles; Highlands – Steven Martinez; Kennedy – Isiaha Garcia; Lanier – Hector DeHoyos; Memorial – Ivan DeAnda.
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.”
The Woodlands, No. 1 in one state poll, is making its second state appearance and hopes the outcome is the same as its first excursion to Austin in 2011.
The Highlanders won the Class 5A title. Three players return who participated in that title game, seniors Caitln Bartsch, center fielder Amy Cimera and second baseman Sidney Salmans.
Bartsch, a University of Nebraska signee, is The Woodlands’ No. 2 pitcher, as she was that season. She has an 11-1 record and 1.72 ERA.. Cimera and Salmans, a Northwestern State (La.) commit, both have batting averages over .400.
Junior left-handed pitcher Abby Langkamp is the key for the Highlanders. She has a perfect 25-0 record to go with a 1.43 ERA in 151 2/3 innings. The Baylor commit has stuck out 180 and walked 31 while pitching 14 shutouts.
The offensive leaders include juniors shortstop Aubrey Leach (.594 batting average, 46 RBIs, 49 stolen bases) and first baseman Shelby Dublin (.366 batting average, 31 RBIs). Dublin is another Highlander who has chosen Northwestern State as a college destination. Leah has committed to the University of Tennessee.
Other players to watch include Leach’s sister, freshman Kelcy Leach, and junior third baseman Kaitlin Stavinoha .(440 batting average, 46 RBIs). The younger Leach, a catcher, has a team-high 10 home runs and is batting .339 with 34 RBIs. Senior left fielder Brittany Manns, who’ll play at Dartmouth College, has a .377 batting .average.
Like Southwest, The Woodlands has a six-game winning streak. The Highllanders have won 29 of their last 30 games.
Southwest began the third game of the Region IV finals as though they were going to win it in a sprint. When it turned into a marathon, the Dragons had the finishing kick they needed to qualify for state.
The Dragons (34-11) lost an early lead, but recovered to defeat San Marcos (33-11) 8-7 in eight innings before an estimated crowd of 1,600 Saturday at St. Mary’s University’s Rattler Softball Stadium. They won the last two games of the best-of-three series after losing the opener by 10 runs to San Marcos.
Southwest claimed its second-straight win over the Rattlers, who had won their first seven postseason games.
“They were the first team we played that was like us,” Southwest senior pitcher-first baseman Kamerie Vidales said, the winning pitcher in Game 3. “They really wanted to win. They wanted it just as much as we did. Even though it was going to be difficult, we were going to do everything we could to come up with a win.”
Southwest will play The Woodlands (38-3) at 6 p.m. Friday in the Class 5A semifinals at Red & Charline McCombs Field on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Deer Park (37-6) faces Lubbock Coronado (36-4) in the other semifinal. The finals are scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday.
The Dragons squared the series with San Marcos Friday with a commanding 7-3 win that forced the decisive game. Unlike that game, Southwest trailed for much of Saturday’s contest.
“I’m not going to lie,” sixth-year Southwest coach Sandy Hernandez said. “We have come from behind so many times, I started to wonder if we’d run out of chances. I started thinking that, maybe, San Marcos deserves this more than we do.
“But (the girls) never doubted it. Really, the seniors stepped up and played their butts off.”
Senior Liz Phillips (3-for-5, 3 RBIs) produced the game-winning hit with two outs in the eighth, sending a single to the right-center field gap on an 0-2 count. Phillips drove in sophomore left fielder Megan Hernandez, who had walked and taken second on Kristal Salinas’ ground out.
“It’s my senior year,” Phillips explained. “Like I told my team before the game, I was going to leave it all on my field. If my season was going to end today, I was going to leave it all on the field.
“I knew that, if I didn’t do it then, there might never be a chance to do it again. I wanted to try to help my team and get it done for them.”
The fourth-year starter was the linchpin in the Dragons’ comeback.
“In 2011, Katrisha Arocha was my pitcher, and she was amazing,” Sandy Hernandez said. “I felt like, if we got two runs, we could beat anybody.
“I always knew this group of seniors could do it. Kam, Gabby (Flores), Liz, Kayla (Arguello) and Amanda (Sanchez) have played together so long and wanted it so much.
“I didn’t know if it would take six years or nine years, but I knew, eventually, Southwest would get to state.”
Phillips, who had thrown out a runner at second base in the fourth after a running catch, gunned down a potential winning run at the plate in the seventh. San Marcos’ Ciandra Kinere, who relieved Rattlers starting pitcher Victoria Vasquez, smacked a leadoff single. Kinere (3-for-5, RBI) rounded third on Maddie Bumgardner’s single up the middle.
Phillips grabbed the ball on the hop and fired home. She said she didn’t look for a cutoff person.
“I thought it might be one step to the side (of the plate),” she said, “but I was going to make it. I knew it was going to be close. It felt good leaving my hand.”
Sophomore catcher Miranda Gonzales had the plate blocked and applied the tag for the crucial third out in the seventh, sending the game to extra innings.
Offensively, Phillips tied the score 7-7 with a two-run triple in the sixth. She launched the ball to the wall in the right-center field alley, driving in Flores and Megan Hernandez, who contributed singles. It was the senior’s second triple of the series. She batted .500 (6-for-12) over the three games.
“I thought I could get it done,” Phillips said of her hitting since breaking out of a slump in the regional semifinals. “I believed in myself.”
Vidales (15-5) worked out of a bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the eighth, retiring Ciandra Kinere on a fly out to right fielder Faith Aguilar, to end the game and complete her sixth inning without allowing a run.
“I just knew I had to step up and back up my pitcher,” Vidales said, referring to starter Caitlin Terrazas. “We work as a team, and I had to do it for my team. .”
The Rattlers had led 7-5 after three innings.
Southwest had taken the lead on a three-run home run in the first inning from Arguello, but San Marcos answered with two runs in its half of the inning – giving an indication of the battle about to unfold.
Salinas began the game with a double to straightaway center. Phillips followed with an opposite-field single, ahead of Arguello’s long home run to left field. Surprisingly, it was Southwest’s only home run of the series after belting at least one in eight of the previous nine games.
In fact, the first five Dragons batters made solid contact against San Marcos starter Victoria Vasquez.
The Rattlers scored on RBI singles from Stephanie Marmolejo (3-for-5, RBI) and Kinere but, in both cases, Southwest threw out runners to limit the damage. Vidales cut a throw from the outfield and redirected the ball to third base for a put out. Hernandez threw out Kinere at second base as she tried to stretch her hit.
In all, the Dragons eliminated four runners on the basepaths – no small factor in a one-run game.
Southwest pushed its lead to 5-2 in the third inning. Phillips was safe on an error and Arguello was struck by pitch, putting two runners in scoring position for Vidales (2-for-4, 2 RBI). The senior clean-up hitter delivered a two-run double, which she crushed to dead center field.
The hit forced San Marcos coach Catherine Stoughton to make a bold gambit. She brought in Kinere to pitch for the first time since Spring Break.
“They’d seen Vic two games in a row, and they were starting to figure her out,” Stoughton said. “I was confident CiCi could come in and do it.”
Southwest junior Yanira Fernandez greeted Kinere with an infield single, but the Dragons couldn’t muster another hit against the Rattlers designated player until the sixth inning.
The Dragons had yet make the pitching change that altered the game for them.
Rattlers cleanup hitter Vianey Villalpando blasted a three-run home run that tied the game with none out in their half of the third. Kinere drove in the go-ahead run with a double that ended Terrazas’ outing.
Joshlynn Gonzales (2-for-3, RBI) added an RBI single as the first batter to face Vidales, but the run was charged to her predecessor. San Marcos led 7-5, but it wouldn’t get another runner as far as third base until the seventh.
“I’m proud of the way they played,” Stoughton said of her team. “CiCi (Kinere) came in and pitched great. They really wanted it.”
The Dragons began to solve Kinere in the sixth inning. Flores sparked the rally with a leadoff single. Hernandez then wedged a base hit between the Rattlers’ third baseman and shortstop. Phillips brought them both home with the triple that enabled Southwest to send Game 3 to extra innings.
San Marcos outhit Southwest 14-10. Half of the Dragons’ hits were compiled in the last three innings, one exibit in building a case for themselves as a team of destiny.
“I told them, ‘God put us together for a reason,” Hernandez said.
Southwest had been eliminated in the area round each of the previous two years after advancing to the Region IV quarterfinals in 2011. This year’s District 28-5A champs – the third 30-plus-win Southwest team in four years – seemed to develop more mental toughness with each passing week, leading to a 10-2 postseason record.
“I’ve seen us grow this entire season, more and more,” Vidales said. “We couldn’t be beaten. We had our ups and downs. There were times when we didn’t all get along, but that just brought us closer together in the end.
“There was no way I could think about going on without my team. I love these girls. I knew we were going to go on to state.”
The Dragons are the school’s first team to advance to state in a sport other than track.
“It’s more than I could ask for,” Phillips said. “I never thought we could do something this amazing.”
Southwest drew on both its inner and its physical reserves Friday at Mary Ann Villarreal Field No. 1 to force a third game in its Class 5A Region IV final series with San Marcos.
On the heels of a 10-run loss to the Rattlers in the series opener, Southwest coach Sandy Hernandez made a couple of cosmetic changes to her batting order and shared some words of wisdom designed to lighten her team’s psychological load, then sent them off to meet the challenge. Unlike Game 1, the Dragons (34-10) produced in clutch situations and stifled most of San Marcos’ scoring opportunities on their way to a momentum-changing 7-3 victory.
The Rattlers (33-10) lost for the first time this postseason, ending a 10-game winning streak.
“When I met with them out o n the mound I told them,” Hernandez said, ” ‘Players that fight never lose games, they just run out of time. I love you. Just go out there and play, girls. If you do what you love, you’ll always be successful. Have fun.’
“They really responded. No one can beat us when we do that.”
The series concludes at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at St. Mary’s University. The winner advances to the Class 5A state tournament.
Southwest replaced injured senior left fielder Amanda Sanchez with sophomore Megan Hernandez in the No. 9 slot and flip-flopped two of its regulars. Senior Gabby Flores was shifted from catcher to designated player. Sophomore Miranda Gonzales, who normally is the DP, started behind the plate. Classmate Isabel Soto was a late-inning defensive replacement in right field for Faith Aguilar.
Flores, Gonzalez and Hernandez each finished 1-for-3 with an RBI. More importantly, they were key contributors to the Dragons’ three-run rally in the third and two-run rally in the sixth.
Hernandez laid down a perfect suicide squeeze bunt for what proved to be the winning run.
“We had people pull together for those that were out,” the Southwest coach said. “Megan had been contributing off the bench very well. She had been bunting well, so I asked her if she wanted to bunt again, and she said ‘yes.’
“Faith has been doing a great job all season. Isabel came off the bench and made that great catch in right field in the seventh. The bench came through.”
Southwest never trailed in Game 2, but was tied 1-1 for a few moments in the third inning, before Hernandez’s bunt.
The Dragons seemingly were at their best in clutch situations all evening, and none was more important than when San Marcos’ No. 3 hitter Stephanie Marmolejo faced sophomore pitcher Caitlin Terrazas with two runners on base in the sixth inning and the Dragons’ 5-3 lead potentially in jeopardy.
Marmolejo had hit two home runs and drove in six runs in Game 1.
“We allow them the previous at-bat, but we don’t really worry about what they did,” said Terrazas, who held the Rattlers to five hits. “She hit two home runs. Good for her. But I was going to come back and stay under control.
“I stayed confident in my defense. I was not going to give her anything over the plate. I was going to make her work for it.”
Terrazas retired Marmolejo on an inning-ending line out to left. She also stranded Vianey Villalpando (2-for-3) at second base after the San Marcos cleanup hitter led off the seventh with a double.
Between those at-bats, Southwest added two clinching runs in the bottom of the sixth.
The rally began with consecutive singles from senior Kayla Arguello, Kamerie Vidales and Yanira Fernandez. Fernandez (2-for-3, RBI) made it 6-3 on a slow roller to third base.
Terrazas (2-for-3, 2 RBI) re-loaded the bases with a walk. Flores sent a fly ball to center field that Gabby Guerrero was able to run down for a great catch, but Vidales was able to score on the sacrifice.
Vidales (2-for-4) produced the Dragons’ first run when she dropped a two-out single into center field. San Marcos answered with a two-out, RBI double from Marmolejo (1-for-2, RBI) to the left-center field gap.
Southwest center fielder Liz Phillips quickly retrieved the ball and relayed it to shortstop Kristal Salinas. Salinas’ throw to Gonzales at the plate was in time to prevent a go-ahead run for the Rattlers and end the inning.
“I got up at one point and said we should win every inning,” Terrazas said, referring to a pre-game conversation. “If we don’t score, they don’t score. If they score two runs, we score three.”
In hindsight, the Dragons won the game by winning the third inning. Southwest built a 4-1 lead in the third.
A leadoff walk to Arguello (1-for-2) and a bloop single from Fernandez preceded an RBI single to center field from Terrazas. Ahead 2-1, Southwest loaded the bases with an opposite-field single from Flores and scored on Gonzales’ base on balls. That set the stage for Hernandez.
The sophomore pushed the bunt to third base as Fernandez dashed almost halfway down the third-base line. Fernandez scored standing up.
“That was fun,” Terrazas said. “We really needed runs there. I wish we’d gotten more. Megan got the job done for the team.”
San Marcos scored in the fourth when Guerrero came home on a bobble after Ciandra Kinere’s single, but Southwest matched the run in the bottom of the inning. Terrazas did the honors with a two-out single.
The Rattlers closed within 5-3 in the fifth. Marmolejo scored on errant throw off Guerrero’s fly out. Terrazas retired the next two batters to leave a San Marcos runner on third base.
“I tried to stay with what was working,” Terrazas said, “and stay away from what wasn’t.”
It’s safe to say the Dragons succeeded in doing the same.
After winning four of their previous five games by one run, San Marcos apparently was ready to break out offensively.
The Rattlers (33-10) turned the tables on Southwest (33-10) Thursday at the Northeast ISD Complex west field, battering the Dragons for nine runs in the first inning. San Marcos, undefeated in the postseason, won 17-7 in Game 1 of the best-of-three Class 5A Region IV final series.
“I guess we weren’t ready for that offense,” Southwest coach Sandy Hernandez said. “They scored 17 runs. I can’t remember the last time anybody scored that many runs against us.
“I told the team, ‘We win together and we lose together.’ We’re going to come out strong tomorrow, that’s for sure.”
San Marcos outhit Southwest 16-6.
The most a Dragons opponent had scored before Thursday was 13 runs, matched by South San March 13 and Eagle Pass on March 15. No team had scored more runs against Southwest since at least 2010.
Southwest will need a win Friday at Mary Ann Villarreal Field No. 1 to extend the series and keep their hopes of reaching the state finals alive. Game time is 7:30 p.m.
San Marcos had only scored in double figures in one of its first six playoff games, defeating Madison 14-4 in the bi-district round. The Dragons, who’ve scored 10 or more runs five times in the postseason, had averaged 10.2 runs in their previous nine playoff games.
“With these two teams, I knew there’d be a lot of offense,” San Marcos coach Catherine Stoughton said. “Victoria (Vasquez, San Marcos’ pitcher) didn’t have her best stuff, but she kept them off balance. We made some plays behind her that helped her shut them down at key times.
“We came out and hit the ball, like we have all year. Our girls were so pumped and so ready. Against a team like Southwest, those early runs helped. We knew we had to keep scoring from the beginning.“
The Dragons took a 2-0 lead in their half of the first inning In front of an overflow crowd.
Southwest senior walked and scored on a wild pitch with two outs. Yanira Fernandez followed with an RBI double from Ciandre Kinere (3-for-3, 3 RBIs) put the Rattlers in the lead.
San Marcos tied it on a two-run home run from Stephanie Marmolejo (3-for-4, 6 RBIs), three batters into their order. A two-run double from home run, straightaway left on 3-1 pitch.
They produced five doubles among their seven hits in the first inning. Marmolejo came up again in the inning and crunched a two-run double that made it 9-2.
“When Stephanie hit the ball out of here,” Stoughton said, “the girls really knew our momentum shifted. It really gave them confidence.”
The Rattlers scored three more runs in the second, fueled by three walks and two hits. The Dragons had to fight to keep their deficit under 10 runs thereafter.
San Marcos, which equaled its season-high of 17 runs for the third time this season, scored at least two runs in each inning. It was the second 17-run outing in the Rattlers’ current ninth-consecutive game.
Southwest alternated Kamerie Vidales and Caitlin Terrazas in the pitcher’s circle before finally turning to sophomore Amanda Cerda in the fourth. Vidales and Terrazas combined to issue seven walks and one hit batsman.
“We need to be a little more aggressive at the plate,” Hernandez said. “We let Victoria off balance. Defensively, we need to keep the ball low and change speeds effectively. We didn’t do that today.”
Vasquez also struggled with the plate umpire’s tight strike zone, surrendering six walks.
“They hit Vic hard at times,” Stoughton said, “but she made some good pitches.”
Dragons pitchers, however, fell behind early in the count too often, which led to the Rattlers getting pitches to hit in 2-1 and 3-1 counts. Marmolejo’s first home run came on a 3-1 pitch.
Senior center fielder Liz Phillips hit an opposite-field triple to lead off the the third inning. Phillips scored on a single from Arguello that made it 12-3. Arguello, for the second time, crossed the plate on a wild pitch.
An RBI single from Kinere and a two-run single from Vasquez (3-for-4, RBI) gave the Rattlers an 11-run cushion in the third.
Phillips (2-for-4) singled and scored on a misplayed grounder in the fourth, but the Dragons left two runners in scoring position. Marmolejo drilled a two-run homer to center in the fourth for a 17-5 advantage.
“I think they realize what’s at stake,” Stoughton said. “They’ve been hearing about Southwest. They have friends on Southwest’s team They know Southwest is a good team. They knew they had to keep scoring, and not let up.”
Cerda entered for the first time in the playoffs and notched all three outs in the inning, leaving two Rattlers runners on base. She had pitched just 1 2/3 innings this season.
Terrazas drew a leadoff walk for Southwest in the fifth. She reached third base on two passed balls.
Sophomore Miranda Gonzales hit a high pop fly to the circle which fell untouched for a single. Southwest loaded the bases on Amanda Sanchez’s swinging bunt.
Kristal Salinas hit a sacrifice fly that brought the Dragons within 17-6, but was their second out. Phillips was safe on error to slash San Marcos’ lead to 10.
Arguello hit a grounder to third base. Although the throw clearly pulled first baseman Vianey Villalpando off the base, but Arguello was ruled out and Sanchez’s run – which would have prevented the 10-run rule from taking effect – did not count.
“When you’re not hitting the ball, you need to make adjustments,” Hernandez said. “One thing for sure, these girls will come out fighting.”
It was only the second time in 10 playoff games that Southwest did not hit a home run. The other also was a loss, to Judson in the area round.
Southwest recovered to win their next two games and claim the series.
“You always have to use that,” Hernandez said, “but I don’t want them taking anything for granted. We’ll have to come ready to play. We’ll have to do what we know how to do.”
Six years ago I moved to San Antonio from the Chicago area.
I’m glad I didn’t move here five years ago. I would have hated to miss a year of growth in Southwest’s program.
My arrival coincided with Southwest alumnae Sandy Hernandez taking the helm at her alma mater. Although the Dragons won a district title in her first season, it has been an intriguing progression to watch.
All things considered, it’s not surprising to see Southwest advance to the Region IV finals this spring – as one of eight high school teams still playing softball in Texas.
What distinguishes this team from previous Dragons squads that may have fashioned a better record at the district level or a slightly glossier overall won-loss mark?
The simple answer is its hitting, but the less obvious rationale explains it better.
This group, with five seniors who’ve accumulated 20 years on the varsity – including four-year starters Kamerie Vidales and Liz Phillips – has the experience to cover its errors and battle back from deficits. The teams from 2010 and 2011 may have been slightly more consistent, but they weren’t quite as finely honed in their ability to manufacture big innings that either seize control of the game early or once-and-for-all wrest control of it late.
Last Saturday in the Region IV semifinal, I had the good fortune to sit next to Texas A&M-Kingsville assistant softball coach Carter McBurnett at Vernie and Blanche Hubert Field, where the Javelinas play. He was impressed with Southwest’s ability to consistently produce quality at-bats.
Southwest annually has been one of the best hitting teams in the San Antonio metro area under Hernandez, but not every Dragons teams has been as adept at all aspects of the skill as the 2014 group.
It’s easy to focus on the longball. Southwest, after all, has hit home runs in eight of the nine postseason games it’s played this year. The Dragons lost their only homerless game to Judson, six-consecutive wins ago.
In the midst of the dramatics – like Phillips’ two-run shot last Friday or Gabby Flores’ 3-run homer last Saturday or Vidales’ two-homer outing that clinched the Judson series – don’t lose sight of those timely singles and doubles. They’re what have made the Dragons a consistent hitting machine – a constant that tends to wear down opponents over the course of a three-game series.
As Judson discovered, a pitcher can only hope to keep Southwest’s batters off balance for so long. Try to get to cute by working the corners, and you’ll find that the Dragons also are willing to take a base on balls.
Kristal Salinas and Phillips atop the batting order always seem to be on base. Kayla Arguello, Vidales, junior power hitter Caitlin Terrazas and Flores all can put the ball over the fence. But any of the nine batters an opposing pitcher will face is capable of driving in runs.
As the Dragons have shown when they’ve fallen behind or need an insurance run, Hernandez also has prepared them to aggressively run the bases and manufacture runs. Southwest can even resort to the bunt when the need arises, although it seems contrary to their mode of operation.
While there have been occasional defensive lapses during the season, Southwest is solid defensively – particularly up the middle with Flores at catcher, Salinas at shortstop, Yanira Fernandez at second base and Phillips in center field. Those rare lapses are easily erased by making plays, or turning double plays, where other teams might not.
And, yet again, there’s the propensity to come back and score runs in bulk and in clutch situations.
Pitching is generally considered the common denominator of outstanding softball teams.
Southwest had lockdown pitching from 2009 to 2011 with Mississippi Valley State University recruit Katrisha Arocha. Arocha could be counted on to hold opponents to two runs or fewer each game.
Terrazas and Vidales haven’t quite been in that category, but they’ve been effective enough to support an offense that’s averaged more than 10 runs a game in the postseason. Even better for the Dragons, both are equally effective as a starter and a closer, so Hernandez can ride the hot hand in the pitcher’s circle.
In regional semifinal opponent San Marcos, the Dragons will face a strong pitcher in Victoria Vasquez. Has limited opponents to three runs a game, while the Rattlers’ offense has averaged six runs an outing.
What distinguishes the Rattlers is the fact that they’re unbeaten in six postseason games. Four of their last five games have been decided by exactly one run.
Obviously, San Marcos is a mentally tough team. That’s hardly a shocker in the Elite Eight round.
It will be interesting to see how the Rattlers fare against a Southwest team that’s downright scary offensively and, as Hernandez says, simply refuses to lose. The team that proves itself to be more relentless likely will be the one that advances to the state tournament.
With a resume that includes three national youth-league championships, players who’ve won or shared four district titles (including this season, when District 28-5A was at its strongest) and the confidence that comes with playing its best softball at the right time, Southwest has to like its chances.
The deeper a team goes into the postseason, the more important the mental aspect of the game becomes.
Southwest (33-9) has mastered the process after six years of playoff appearances under coach Sandy Hernandez. The senior-laden Dragons demonstrated as much this weekend by winning a pressure-packed, best-of-three Class 5A regional semifinal series against San Benito (27-6) at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
After winning the series opener 7-2 Friday, the Dragons overcame a 5-1 deficit to post a 9-6 victory Saturday afternoon. The sweep made them the first Southwest team to advance to the Region IV finals and become one of the state’s final eight.
“That’s one thing I’ve worked on since 2009,” Hernandez said of improving her team’s mental toughness. “I’ve tried to study and figure out the mental part.
“It’s not that I did, but I think they finally figured it out.”
Many of the current Dragons played on Southwest Pony League’s three national championship teams during their early teen years.
“This is a different level,” Hernandez said. “They had success in their youth league, so they knew how to do it.. They just had to figure out how to do it in high school.”
Southwest advanced to play San Marcos (32-9) in the regional championship. The Rattlers swept their semifinal series against Eagle Pass with two one-run victories. Hernandez said series details would be determined Monday.
“They have a great pitcher,” Hernandez said. “We’ll have to figure that out.”
San Benito was the perfect semifinal foil for the Dragons for two reasons.
The Greyhounds, who were making their seventh Sweet 16 appearance, reached the destination in 2013 that Southwest is steering toward – the state finals. The other reason it was a compelling matchup was that San Benito eliminated the Dragons twice in previous years, including 2011 when the current seniors were freshmen.
“We wanted revenge,” said Southwest senior center fielder Liz Phillips, who broke out of a slump by hitting a game-clinching home run Friday.
“I’m glad we got it.”
As befitting the Greyhounds’ pedigree, San Benito didn’t make it easy.
Three walks and an RBI double from Dorothy Millan to the left-center field gap made it 2-0 before the Dragons came up to bat.
Southwest cut the deficit in half in its half of the first. Kristal Salinas (3-for-5, RBI) and Phillips (2-for-3, RBI) provided the spark with base hits. Senior third baseman Kayla Arguello loaded the bases on a catcher’s interference call.
Kamerie Vidales’ grounder brought in one Dragons run, but Southwest left two on base in the first and three more in the second.
Three Southwest errors combined with two more walks to help San Benito sculpt a 5-1 lead in the third inning.
Fortunately for the Dragons, the Greyhounds also were in a generous mood.
San Benito committed three errors in the bottom of the third as Southwest responded with a seven-run outburst. The rally included a game-changing, three-run home run from senior catcher Gabby Flores.
“When Gabby hit that home run,” Arguello said, “it gave everyone confidence, not just me.”
Flores’ blast meant that the Dragons had hit home runs in eight of its nine postseason games. Realistically, though, it carried much more significance. It was the assurance that the Dragons could vanquish San Benito – and wouldn’t need another game to accomplish it.
“One of our goals was to try to do it in two (games),” Hernandez said. “We couldn’t go three against that kind of quality team. It was great to see my team succeed..”
The Greyhounds hadn’t committed an error in the first two innings, after having an outbreak in Game 1. However, their second error of the inning gave Southwest its first lead of the afternoon.
Salinas’ go-ahead RBI single was misplayed for a two-base error. With the junior at third base, Phillips delivered an opposite-field single that put the Dragons ahead 7-5.
Arguello followed with a double that hit the base of the center-field fence, below 225-foot sign at Vernie and Blanche Hubert Field.
“Every time I go up to bat,” she said, “I’m really not hitting for myself. I’m trying to get my teammates an RBI so they can score.”
The blast increased Southwest’s lead to three runs and prompted San Benito’s 17th-year coach Elias Martinez to hand the ball to senior Amber Jasso, the winning pitcher in both 2011 games, in relief of starter Crystal Castillo. Jasso hadn’t pitched in about a month.
“I told the girls to be ready for Jasso,” the Southwest coach said. “As a coach, that was the right move. She did the job the first three or four innings against us, but we finally got one (run)..”
Southwest junior Caitlin Terrazas had already relieved Vidales. The two pitchers stemmed the tide of runs.
Terrazas allowed only a one-out home run to San Benito’s Melanie Gonzalez in the fifth. She pitched out of the inning, leaving three Greyhounds on base and squelching their best chance for a comeback victory.
In the sixth, she had help from an amazing catch that prevented a hit.
Backpedaling to the outfield grass on a pop fly, Salinas snared the ball, but it popped out of her glove. Fortunately for the Dragons, left fielder Amanda Sanchez – one of the heroes of Game 1 – backed up the play and caught the ball in the air, as in a football tip drill.
“We made some mistakes, and they took advantage,” Martinez said. “I’m proud of my girls because they kept battling. They left it all on the field.
“We went up against a great ballclub. Southwest made some mistakes, too. It’s two great teams going at it, and they came out on top.”
In its last at-bat, Southwest picked up a valuable insurance run.
“The difference was that we struggled offensively,” Martinez said, comparing this year’s series to the 2011 series. “Southwest’s offense is really tough – and we weren’t equal to it.”
With two outs in the sixth, Flores and Miranda Gonzales lined back-to-back base hits. Gonzales came through on full count to drive in the clinching run.
“We’ve all been together since we were very young,” Arguello said. “I think we’re different than any other team, because no one else ha s been together that long. I think we want it more. We want to get where we need to be.”
The mission Arguello referred to was getting to the state tournament, which may be two wins away.
“I think, now that we’ve proved who we are and what we can be,” Arguello said, “next year, when we’re not here, those girls will be able to do the exact same thing.”
One thing is for sure, they’ve seen the process in action.
Southwest carries a six-game winning streak into its best-of-three regional semifinal series against San Marcos. All three games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
The first game will take place Thursday at the Northeast ISD softball complex. Game 2 is set for Friday at Mary Ann Villarreal Field No. 1 at Burbank High School. If necessary, the third game will be played at St. Mary’s Unviersity’s new field.
In its fifth try, Southwest discovered the right mix of ingredients to defeat perennial Rio Grande Valley power San Benito Friday at Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
The Dragons (32-9) smashed the Greyhounds (27-5) 7-2 in Game 1 of the Region IV semifinal series with help from senior center fielder Liz Phillips. The fourth-year starter – known as a gap hitter – packed the punch with an RBI double for Southwest’s first run and a two-run home run in the seventh that essentially clinched the win.
Although Phillips had been doing her job as a No. 2 hitter in Southwest’s order by drawing walks and moving runners up, her extra-base power had been on vacation since she hit her first home run of the season in the bi-district series against Brandeis.
“I think I’m finally coming out of the slump. It was definitely good,” Phillips said. “The good thing about hitting int he second spot, Kristal (Salinas) and I were able to get them going. We were able to open it up for the team. It helps to make it easier when we get some momentum going between us.”
If Southwest wins one of two scheduled games Saturday at TAMUK, it will advance to the regional semifinals and play San Marcos (32-9). The Rattlers, who eliminated East Central in the area round, edged Eagle Pass 2-1 Thursday and 4-3 Friday to sweep the other Region IV semifinal series.
The Dragons will play San Benito in Game 2 at 2 p.m. If necessary, Game 3 will take place 30 minutes after that game is completed.
San Benito swept postseason series against Southwest in 2010, in the area round, and 2011, in the regional semifinals. The Greyhounds never led Friday.
Salinas, a junior shortstop, started the game with a base hit and scored on Phillips’ double for a 1-0 lead. San Benito, which reached the state finals in 2013, tied it in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI double from Dorothy Millan.
The Dragons seized control in the second inning, when senior Gabby Flores hit an RBI single and scores on a bases-loaded walk. Southwest took a 4-1 lead into the fourth, adding a run on a sacrifice fly.
San Benito closed within two runs in the bottom of the sixth when Amber Jasso – who pitched the Greyhounds to two wins over Southwest in 2011 – drove a leadoff double and scored on Clarissa Huerta’s single.
The Greyhounds had runners at the corners, but Southwest second baseman Yanira Fernandez fielded a grounder, tagged the San Benito runner as she passed and threw to Caitlin Terrazas at first base for an inning-ending double play.
Southwest unloaded on Greyhounds ace pitcher Crystal Castillo in the seventh inning.
Senior Amanda Sanchez sparked the rally with a leadoff triple to left field. Salinas drove in Sanchez with a grounder to first base that was misplayed for an error.
With the Dragons ahead 5-2, Phillips worked the count to 3-2 and launched a drive over the fence in straightaway left field. Terrazas hit a two-out shot to the warning track in left-center, but it was just short of being a second Southwest home run in the inning.
“My coach (Sandy Hernandez) gave me a bunt sign,” Phillips said, “but I didn’t lay down a bunt. I ended up taking a strike inside. Then she gave me a pitch down the middle, and I took it out.”
It didn’t matter. The damage had been done.
Although the Greyhounds drew two walks in the final half-inning, Southwest senior pitcher Kamerie Vidales escaped the jam without any damage.
It was Vidales’ third-straight postseason victory and the fifth in a row for the Dragons. Southwest has hit at least one home run in seven of its eight playoff games.
Victoria St. Joseph remains Holy Cross’ nemesis, for another year.
The Flyers (24-11) claimed a 10-5 win over the Knights in the TAPPS Class 4A state semifinals Monday at Texas A&M University in College Station. It was the TAPPS 3-4A champion’s second win this year over Holy Cross (26-11-1), including a 4-3 decision March 29 in district play..
“We hit the ball well,” Knights coach Angel Cedillo said. “We actually outhit them 10-9, but they had people on base, and we didn’t. They’re a good team.
“If we keep building, one of these days, we’ll find a way to catch up.”
St. Joseph was eliminated in the state semifinals with a 10-0 loss to Fort Bend Christian.Friday.
The Flyers were in control throughout the semifinal, after scoring three runs in the first inning. Mariah Clay clouted a two-home run for St. Joseph.
“They hit a double to start the game,” Cedillo said, “then their leadoff hitter hit a home run. We had some issues. We couldn’t put the ball over the plate.
“We had to squeeze them, pitch them away and feed them change-ups. When you’re trying to do that, sometimes you get behind in the count and come down the middle. They put the bat on the ball and got timely hits. We didn’t make a lot of errors. It was all walks and timely hits.”
Holy Cross, the No. 3 seed from 3-4A, closed within 3-1 in the second inning. St. Joseph responded with a six-run fourth. Knights senior pitcher Julia Ibarra only allowed one run thereafter.
“They never quit all season,” Cedillo said. “We always played tough.”
The Knights made the final margin more respectable with two runs in each of the final two innings.
“We started the seventh with four base hits in a row,” Cedillo said. “We had our No. 4 batter (Kat Rangel) up and she hit a shot in the gap. Their girl made a good catch, or it would have been 10-8 if that ball got through.
“It wasn’t meant to be.”
Holy Cross qualified for the state quarterfinals for the second-consecutive year. The Knights never had advanced as far before 2011.
This season’s highlights also included wins over TAPPS Class 5A teams Antonian and Incarnate Word. Antonian lost 10-4 to Dallas Bishop Lynch Saturday in the 5A championship game. Lynch defeated Incarnate Word 16-6 Friday in the semifinals.
“The girls had a great year,” Cedillo said. “We had never beaten both in the same year. It’s all about peaking at the right time (in the playoffs). We’ll build on this and keep getting better.
“Our girls can look back and say they beat two really good teams in Antonian and Incarnate Word. The girls who are coming back and the ones that graduate can feel like they’ve really accomplished something. They have nothing to feel bad about. We just got beat by a better team that day.
“I look forward to next year.”
The Knights only will lose two seniors to graduation, starting right fielder Jenevieve Cruz and Ibarra, who fashioned a 21-8 pitching record this year. Replacing the four-year starting pitcher, who shared duties with 2013 graduate Marisa Hernandez the first three seasons, will be difficult.
Junior Marisol Ortega (.590 batting average, 27 stolen bases) was the Knights’ No. 2 pitcher this season, but she’s also an outstanding leadoff hitter and defensive shortstop.
“We’re going to have to outscore teams until we figure out who’s going to (pitch),” Cedillo said. “We’ll pitch by committee and find out who steps up. We’ve got the pieces in place. It’s a matter of molding them into a team.”
Even with virtually an entire roster of prospective returnees – including seven players with batting averages above .400 – Cedillo expects some new additions.
“We’ve got some solid ones coming up,” he said. “There are kids who should help in middle school and our freshmen were really good soldiers. We’ve got to replace a pitcher with longevity and leadership. It’s a challenge. That’s why we start anew every year.”
A delay of nearly two hours, fallout from afternoon storms Friday, gave Southwest plenty of time to overthink its good fortune — and endanger its status.
Fortunately for the Dragons, they were aware of the potential pitfalls associated with getting an early lead in a best-of-three series. They had been in Steele’s situation in the previous round.
“You just try to stay focused,” Southwest junior shortstop Kristal Salinas said. “Judson kind of relaxed in the second game, and we came back and had a big inning. We got them. You’ve got to keep that in mind all game long.”
Salinas drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the first inning to add fuel to a rally that gave the Dragons (31-9) a three-run cushion, exactly as the Knights (19-14) had done Thursday. Southwest never lost its lead and completed a sweep of their District 28-5A rival with a 6-3 victory in the Class 5A Region IV quarterfinal series.
“We take losing really hard,” said Southwest senior pitcher Kamerie Vidales, who authored the complete-game win. “It’s almost more than we enjoy winning. As of right now, we’re going to stick together, no matter what – win or lose.”
The Dragons advance to play San Benito (27-4), which downed Los Fresnos 7-0 Friday in a one-game quarterfinal playoff. Interestingly, Southwest met San Benito in a regional-semfinal series in 2011, when Vidales and her classmates were freshmen. It was the only previous time that Southwest qualfied for the semifinals.
The Greyhounds swept postseason series against Southwest in 2010 and 2011. In their last meeting, then-freshman pitcher Amber Jasso limited the Dragons to two runs.
It has been a long, hard climb for Southwest to get back to that point, despite remaining one of the San Antonio area’s best programs.
“This team has been together a long time,” Salinas said. “We won three national championships in the PONY league, but we kept running into obstacles in the playoffs in high school. We weren’t able to get past the second round.
The Dragons scored fewer than 10 runs for just the second time in seven postseason games this year. Vidales kept Steele scoreless over the last five innings.
“Ever since we lost to South San (March 13),” sixth-year Southwest coach Sandy Hernandez said, “we’ve learned that we have to score as many runs as we can. We took control on the mound. That was the difference in this game.”
Southwest scored three runs in the bottom of the first inning, after Salinas notched a leadoff single.
Two runs scored on throwing error on Kayla Arguello’s grounder. Vidales made it 3-0 with a sacrifice fly
“It wasn’t as much stress,” Salinas said. “They started off 3-0 (Thursday). But you can’t let your guard down. You’ve got to keep going.
“There was not one point where we didn’t. They’re a good team. Everybody is in the playoffs.”
The Knights tied it in the second inning.
Steele’s first run scored on a bases-loaded walk to freshman Savanna Bonola. Amanda Thacker brought in the Knights’ last two runs with a single to left-center. Steele left two runners on base.
Vidales also stranded a runner at third in the fourth inning and left the bases loaded in the fifth after Mersadi Garcia wedged a two-out single through the infield.
“Kam stepped up,” Hernandez said. “She did a great job of getting out of that bases-loaded situation. She was just big. I knew I could count on her to come to play.”
Southwest took the lead in the bottom of the second on doubles from Miranda Gonzales and Salinas (2-for-4, RBI).
Vidales led off the third with a single to center field. With one out, Caitlin Terrazas drove a home run over the left-field fence. It was her ninth home run of the season, but just the second of the series for the Dragons, who hit three in the decisive game of their area-round set against Judson.
The Knights manufactured one last potential threat, but an outstanding defensive play helped Vidales escape without giving up a run.
Alexis Walkden led off the sixth with a base hit down the left-field line. Thacker (2-for-3, 2 RBIs) sent a double to the center-field fence. Steele had two runners in scoring position with no outs, and Walkden made a break for the plate.
A relay throw from Southwest senior center fielder Liz Phillips to Salinas to senior catcher Gabby Flores prevented the run. Vidales retired the last four Knights batters in order.
“I know, in yesterday’s game, we didn’t show what we could do until the end,” Vidales said. “I tried to stay focused the whole game. You never know what can happen at the end.”
It would be easy to characterize Southwest-San Benito as power hitters versus slap hitters, but the Dragons coach indicated that would be an oversimplification.
“Elias Martinez is still coaching them and they’ve still got Amber Jasso,” Hernandez said, “but she isn’t pitching this year.
“They’ve still got some good bunters, but they have some good hitters, too. They can do it all. We have to be ready for anything.”
The regional semifinal series will be played entirely at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. The first game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday. If necessary, two games will take place on Saturday. Game 2 is set for 2 p.m. The third game would take place 30 minutes after its completion, if it’s required to determine a winner.
The Greyhounds were tied for 10th in the most recent Texas Girls Coaches association state poll. Southwest was unranked.
Vidales remembers the 2011 series against San Benito, although it isn’t a fond memory.
“It was a hard series,” the senior said. “We kind of fell apart. We came at them with what we had, but we came up short.”
Mental toughness has been Southwest’s calling card this season.
This year’s Southwest team may not be as dominant as some of its predecessors, but it may have an intangible on its side that’s capable of propelling the Dragons as far.
That hard to define trait manifests itself as an ability to manufacture of inspriation when their backs are against the wall. The Dragons (30-9) did it again in their Region IV quarterfinal series opener Thursday at the Northeast ISD complex’s east field, scoring seven runs in the top of the seventh to turn a deficit into an 11-9 victory over District 28-5A Steele (19-13).
Junior second baseman Yanira Fernandez provided the spark three times in a span of about half an hour. The first was a diving stop that prevented a Knights run in the bottom of the sixth, which helped senior pitcher Kamerie Vidales escape a bases-loaded jam. She batted twice in the seventh, belting a home run and driving in the two runs that signified the margin of victory.
“It was a little bit difficult,” Fernandez said, of her defensive play with the Knights leading 5-4. “I just focused on getting the runner out.”
Game 2 is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tonight at the SAISD Mary Ann Villarreal Complex on Field No. 1. A win would put the Dragons in the regional semifinals for the first time since 2011 and second time in school history. A third game would take place 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Northside ISD Field No. 2, if necessary.
The series winner will play the Los Fresnos-San Benito winner. Those teams meet in a one-game playoff at 7 p.m. tonight at San Benito. The Dragons have played San Benito twice in the postseason during Southwest coach Sandy Hernandez’s six years at the helm.
Fernandez (3-for-5, 3 RBIs) hits fifth in the Southwest order between power hitters Vidales (11 home runs) and Caitlin Terrazas (8 home runs). The junior is more of a gap hitter, but she got a little extra on her tying drive to left-center for her first home run since April 17.
The date is significant, because it accounted for the Dragons’ run in a 4-1 district-finale loss to Steele.
“When one of us hits, it’s like starting a train,” Fernandez said. “It starts a train reaction. It’s good that we have a team that can do something like that”
Her fourth home run of the season was followed by a pair of outs, which delayed the reaction. The Dragons got new life when Miranda Gonzales drew a walk and Amanda Sanchez was safe on a dropped popup.
The next five Southwest batters recorded hits.
“They refuse to lose,” Hernandez said of her team. “We go 16 deep. I knew if I one could get a hit, the next one could go in there and get a hit.”
Junior Kristal Salinas (2-for-4, RBI) drove a two-run single to left and ran aggressively on senior Liz Phillips’ double to left-center field. Kayla Arguello added a single that increased Southwest’s lead to 9-5.
An opposite-field double from Vidales meant that six-consecutive batters had reached base. Fernandez drove in the Dragons’ last two runs with a single to right.
“That was the only thing stuck in my mind,” Fernandez said. “I needed to get the team two more runs.”
Hernandez wasn’t surprised by Fernandez’s heroics, although she is known more for quiet contributions. She threw out a runner at the plate for Steele’s second out in the sixth after stopping a would-be base hit from No. 3 hitter Alexis Walkden.
“The biggest thing is that YaYa never really plays scared,” she said. “She made the pick up and made the play. Then she came back and made two shots. She drove that one over the fence and then that single.
“She’s a silent killer.”
Steele, which had led 5-3 in the bottom of the third, wasn’t done scoring.
The first three Knights batters reached base ahead of an infield fly. The batter was out, but runners could advance at their own risk. Two scored, cutting the Dragons’ lead to four.
No. 9 hitter Jenelle Pence and freshman Savanna Bonola produced back-to-back RBI singles before Vidales was able to record the last two outs.
Steele drew five walks and used a sacrifice fly to score three runs and chase Terrazas from the pitcher’s circle in the first. Runs were scored on a bases-loaded walk to Miranda Holguin, a sacrifice fly from Knights pitcher Jennifer Hittinger and a passed ball.
The Dragons closed to 3-2 in the second when two runs scored when Sanchez’s ground out was misplayed. Southwest tied it on a third-inning throwing error as Steele attempted to turn a double play.
A sacrifice fly from Holguin and an error brought Steele a 5-3 lead in the bottom of the inning.
Southwest answered in the fifth, when Vidales (3-for-5, RBI) drove a run-scoring single.
“I we they were going to have a big inning,” Hernandez said, “though I’d like it to be in the first five or so. But I knew eventually we’d come together and get it done.”
Like an iceberg, there’s much more to Southwest’s potent hitting attack than the part you see at the surface.
The impetus behind the Dragons’ run-scoring machine is a combination of hard work and determination. Factor in the experience that comes with seven fourth-year varsity players, and it’s easy to understand how Southwest (29-9) is capable of burying opponents.
The Dragons, No. 4 in the final Express-News area rankings, did just that to No. 2 Judson (28-8) over the last two contests in their three-game Class 5A area-round series. The Rockets won the opener 8-4 last Thursday. Southwest showed its resiliance with a 14-4 win on Friday and a 14-7 decision on Saturday.
“Our team is made up of nothing but hitters,” said Southwest senior Kamerie Vidales, who popped a solo home run and a three-run shot in the series finale. “Hitting is our team right now.”
Judson got the crucial hits in the series opener, including an RBI single from Brenda Iparraguirre (3-for-4, 4 RBIs) in the three-run fourth inning and her two-run single in the sixth. Southwest led 2-1 in the second when senior Amanda Sanchez’s two-out single was misplayed for two errors. The Rockets’ tied it on Nicole Shedd’s RBI double and kept the hits coming at the Northeast ISD Complex east field.
“I’ve worked very hard on (my change-up),” Judson pitcher Michelle Iparraguirre said. “That was very important to our game plan, which was to keep them off-balance.”
A double to the right-field fence from senior Kayla Arguello (2-for-3, 2 RBIs) drove in Liz Phillips in the fifth brought the Dragons within 6-3. Arguello also supplied an RBI single in the seventh.
“(Iparraguire) mixed the curve in and kept us off-balancee,” Southwest coach Sandy Hernandez said. “She held us to five hits. That’s got to be the fewest this year.
“We’ll have to break down it down to see what we can do to hit her better.”
Southwest responded with a 10-run, second-inning bonanza after the Rockets grabbed a 3-0 lead in Game 2 at Villarreal Field No. 1. Winning pitcher Caitlin Terrazas hit the Dragons’ only home run among their 13 hits over six innings.
“I feel like we’re more of a team,” Vidales said, comparing this year’s Dragons to recent seasons. “We’re not a one-person show. From freshman year to now, we’ve built relationships that can’t be broken.”
Judson forged a 3-0 lead over the first three innings in Game 3 behind a home run from Caitlin Mora and an RBI single from Brenda Iparraguirre. The Dragons’ comeback also was built around the long ball.
“I couldn’t ask anything more as a coach,” Hernandez said. “All 16 of them stepped up a little bit. In the dugout, everybody was together. When we come together, we’re tough to beat.”
Senior Kristal Salinas provided an RBI single in the bottom of the third. Vidales’ first home run cut the deficit to a run.
“Honestly, I didn’t go up trying to hit a home run,” Vidales said. “I was trying to bring runs in. She kind of threw it over the middle, and I took it out.”
Singles by Yanira Fernandez and Miranda Gonzales helped Southwest gain a 4-3 lead after four innings at Northside ISD Field No. 1. Vidales’ second home run, and 11th of the season, made it 7-4. The Dragons’ lead grew by two more runs with help from a Fernandez double.
The Rockets closed to 9-7 in their half of the sixth on a three-run homer from Shedd. That merely set the stage for Terrazas’ game-clinching grand slam.
“It was a great feeling,” Terrazas said. “It didn’t matter what the score was. In the box, I knew what I was looking for. I just stuck to the plan.
“It felt just awesome. I was just looking for something to drive. I guess (Iparraguire) missed her spot.”
Arguello lined a leadoff single and Vidales, who had homered in two previous plate appearances, was issued an intentional walk. The bases were loaded after Fernandez singled to center field.
“Getting those extra insurance runs really helped,” Terrazas said. “I always pitch well when I have some cushion. It’s always a contagious feeling when we’re hitting and scoring.”
Southwest kept pouring it on.
A walk to Gabby Flores and singles from Sanchez and Kristal Salinas re-loaded the bases. Phillips worked a base on balls for an RBI and a 14-7 lead.
Terrazas retired the first two Rockets batters in the seventh. Following a single from Alexis Eleman, the junior induced a ground out to end the series.
“I would have to say (it’s) our work ethic,” Terrazas said, explaining the Dragons’ offensive success. “We spend a lot of time on hitting.
“We know, at this point in the playoffs, there’s pressure, but we know we’ve got to do this. We don’t have
many distractions because we love to do this. That’s what makes us so strong at the plate.”
The Dragons reached the Region IV quarterfinals for the first time since 2011, when they advanced to the semifinals.
Southwest will play District 28-5A rival Steele (19-12) in the best-of-three series, which begins Thursday with a game at the NEISD east field. Friday’s game is at Mary Ann Villarreal Field No. 1. The series will shift to Northside ISD Field No. 2 for Game 3 Saturday, if necessary.
“We definitely respect everyone we go against,” Terrazas said. “We can’t let our guards down. We have to keep our team grounded.
“Our team has come together well. We just have to play our best. It’s a matter of executing and contributing.”
Southwest was the district champion with an 8-2 record. Rapidly improving Steele (4-6 in district) was the No. 4 seed.
“I always knew they were good,” Hernandez said. “They’ve got (Jennifer) Hittinger on the mound and (Alexis) Walkden) is a great player. We respect every team equally and prepare for every team equally.”