SOFTBALL: Southwest perseveres to lock in first trip to state

Dragons edge San Marcos in 8th inning

Photos taken by KJ Toso. For more photos or to purchase photos, please visit: http://kjtoso.photoshelter.com

Southwest center fielder Liz Phillips, left, and right fielder Faith Aguilar contributed to Southwest's regional championship. Phillips drove in three runs and threw out a runner at home plate. Aguilar made a running catch for the game's final out in Game 3.
Southwest center fielder Liz Phillips, left, and right fielder Faith Aguilar contributed to Southwest’s regional championship. Phillips drove in three runs and threw out a runner at home plate. Aguilar made a running catch for the final out in Game 3.
Senior Kamerie Vidales blanked San Marcos over the last five innings and hit a two-run double.
Senior Kamerie Vidales blanked San Marcos over the last five innings and hit a two-run double.
Dragons sophomore Megan Hernandez had been primarily a courtesy runner, but played a solid left field in the series and drove in the winning run in Game 2 with a suicide squeeze bunt.
Dragons sophomore Megan Hernandez had been primarily a courtesy runner, but played a solid left field in the series and drove in the winning run in Game 2 with a suicide squeeze bunt.

PLEASE FOLLOW THIS  LINK TO THE SOUTHSIDE REPORTER WEBSITE:

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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.”

SOFTBALL: Southwest rebounds to deal San Marcos first 2014 postseason loss

Dragons keep fighting for state berth

Junior Caitilin Terrazas allowed five hits as a pitcher and drove in two runs at the plate in Southwest's Game 2 win over San Marcos.
Sophomore Caitlin Terrazas allowed five hits as a pitcher and drove in two runs at the plate in Southwest’s Game 2 win over San Marcos.

PLEASE FOLLOW THIS A LINK TO THE SOUTHSIDE REPORTER WEBSITE:

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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.

SOFTBALL: San Marcos outslugs Southwest in Game 1

Dragons’ six-game win streak ends in Region IV finals

Liz Phillips was Southwest's top hitter Thursday against San Marcos, going 2-for-4.
Liz Phillips was Southwest’s top hitter Thursday against San Marcos, going 2-for-4.

PLEASE FOLLOW THIS LINK TO THE SOUTHSIDE REPORTER WEBSITE:

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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.”

SOFTBALL: Southwest rides perfect storm of success to regional finals

Commentary

Southwest senior Kamerie Vidales has hit a team-best 11 home runs this season.
Southwest senior Kayla Arguello has contributed to the Dragons’ power-hitting attack.


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.

SOFTBALL: Road to the Region IV finals (Southwest vs. San Marcos)

Road to the Class 5A Region IV finals

Scores for each 2014 Southwest playoff game

Bi-district round

(Southwest won series 2-0)

Southwest 15, Brandeis 2 (5 innings)

Southwest 12, Brandeis 6

Area round

(Southwest won series 2-1)

Judson 8, Southwest 4

Southwest 14, Judson 4 (6 innings)

Southwest 14, Judson 7

Region IV quarterfinals

(Southwest won series 2-0)

Southwest 11, Steele 9

Southwest 6, Steele 3

Region IV semifinals

(Southwest won series 2-0)

Southwest 7, San Benito 2

Southwest 9, San Benito 6

Totals

Southwest 8-1 record

Southwest 92, opponents 47

 

Scores for each 2014 San Marcos playoff game

Bi-district round

(San Marcos won series 1-0)

San Marcos 14, Madison 4

Area round

(San Marcos won series 2-0)

San Marcos 5, East Central 4 (6 innings)

San Marcos 4, East Central 3

Region IV quarterfinals

(San Marcos won series 1-0)

San Marcos 9, Corpus Christi Carroll 3

Region IV semifinals

(San Marcos won series 2-0)

San Marcos 2, Eagle Pass 1

San Marcos 4, Eagle Pass 3

Totals

San Marcos 6-0 record

San Marcos 38, opponents 18

SOFTBALL: Southwest vs. San Benito regional semifinal photo gallery, May 17, 2014

Photos taken by KJ Toso. For more photos or to purchase photos, please visit: http://kjtoso.photoshelter.com

 

Region IV semifinal, Game 2 at Vernie and Blanche Hubert Field, University of Texas A&M-Kingsville

Southwest center fielder Liz Phillips and right fielder Faith Aguilar in their pre-inning ritual, before the seventh inning in Game 2.
Southwest center fielder Liz Phillips and right fielder Faith Aguilar in their pre-inning ritual, before the seventh inning in Game 2.
Dragons junior pitcher Caitilin Terrazas limited San Benito to one run over the last four innings.
Dragons junior pitcher Caitilin Terrazas limited San Benito to one run over the last four innings.

 

Teammates congratulate Gabby Flores after her three-run home run in the third inning.
Teammates congratulate Gabby Flores after her three-run home run in the third inning.
Dragons senior catcher Gabby Flores contributed an RBI single in the second inning.
Dragons senior catcher Gabby Flores contributed an RBI single in the second inning.
Liz Phillips delivers an RBI single to feed the Dragons' seven-run, third-inning rally.
Liz Phillips delivers an RBI single to feed the Dragons’ seven-run, third-inning rally.
Southwest junior Caitlin Terrazas delivers a pitch against San Benito.
Southwest junior Caitlin Terrazas delivers a pitch against San Benito.
Kristal Salinas, Faith Aguilar, Amanda Sanchez and Yanira Fernandez (from left to right) share their enthusiasm over a remarkable catch. Salinas backpedaled to the outfield grass to corral the ball, but it popped out of her glove. Sanchez caught the ball in the air for the key out in the sixth inning.
Kristal Salinas, Faith Aguilar, Amanda Sanchez and Yanira Fernandez (from left to right) share their enthusiasm over a remarkable catch. Salinas backpedaled to the outfield grass to corral the ball, but it popped out of her glove. Sanchez caught the ball in the air for the key out in the sixth inning.
Gabby Flores heads for third base on her way to home plate after hitting a three-run home run.
Gabby Flores heads for third base on her way to home plate after hitting a three-run home run.
Southwest senior center fielder Liz Phillips broke out of a hitting slump in Game 1 vs. San Benito with an RBI double and 2-run home run.
Southwest senior center fielder Liz Phillips broke out of a hitting slump in Game 1 vs. San Benito with an RBI double and 2-run home run.
Southwest senior catcher Gabby Flores rejoices over the Dragons' series sweep of San Benito.
Southwest senior catcher Gabby Flores rejoices over the Dragons’ series sweep of San Benito.

SOFTBALL: Area playoff schedule/results (thru May 24)

NOTE: teams we cover are in boldface

Games of May 18-24

Thursday’s game

CLASS 5A

Region IV championship

San Marcos (33-9) 17, Southwest (33-10) 7 (5 innings) (best-of-three series, San Marcos leads 1-0)

Friday’s game

CLASS 5A

Region IV championship

Southwest (34-10) 7, San Marcos (33-10) 3(best-of-three series, series tied 1-1)

Saturday’s game

CLASS 5A

Region IV championship

Southwest (35-10) 8, San Marcos (33-11) 7 (8 innings)(best-of-three series, Southwest wins 2-1; Dragons advance to the Class 5A state finals)

SOFTBALL: Southwest makes history with San Benito sweep

Dragons earn first Elite Eight berth

Photos taken by KJ Toso. For more photos or to purchase photos, please visit: http://kjtoso.photoshelter.com

Southwest senior catcher Gabby Flores rejoices over the Dragons' series sweep of San Benito.
Southwest senior catcher Gabby Flores rejoices over the Dragons’ series sweep of San Benito.
Kristal Salinas, Faith Aguilar, Amanda Sanchez and Yanira Fernandez (from left to right) share their enthusiasm over a remarkable catch. Salinas backpedaled to the outfield grass to corral the ball, but it popped out of her glove. Sanchez caught the ball in the air for the key out in the sixth inning.
Kristal Salinas, Faith Aguilar, Amanda Sanchez and Yanira Fernandez (from left to right) share their enthusiasm over a remarkable catch. Salinas backpedaled to the outfield grass to corral the ball, but it popped out of her glove. Sanchez caught the ball in the air for the key out in the sixth inning.
Dragons junior pitcher Caitilin Terrazas limited San Benito to one run over the last four innings.
Winning pitcher Caitlin Terrazas limited San Benito to one run over the last four innings.
Teammates congratulate Gabby Flores after her three-run home run in the third inning.
Teammates congratulate Gabby Flores after her three-run home run in the third inning.
Liz Phillips delivers an RBI single to feed the Dragons' seven-run, third-inning rally.
Liz Phillips delivers an RBI single to feed the Dragons’ seven-run, third-inning rally.

PLEASE FOLLOW THIS LINK TO THE SOUTHSIDE REPORTER WEBSITE:

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/communities/southside/article/Southwest-sets-its-mind-to-winning-5490259.php


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.

SOFTBALL: Dragons stomp San Benito in series opener

 

Southwest one win from first Region IV final

Photos taken by KJ Toso. For more photos or to purchase photos, please visit: http://kjtoso.photoshelter.com

Southwest senior center fielder Liz Phillips broke out of a hitting slump in Game 1 vs. San Benito with an RBI double and 2-run home run.
Southwest senior center fielder Liz Phillips broke out of a hitting slump in Game 1 vs. San Benito with an RBI double and 2-run home run.

 

Dragons senior catcher Gabby Flores contributed an RBI single in the second inning.
Dragons senior catcher Gabby Flores contributed an RBI single in the second inning.

PLEASE FOLLOW THIS LINK TO THE SOUTHSIDE REPORTER:

http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/local/communities/southside/article/Southwest-sets-its-mind-to-winning-5490259.php

 

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.