SOFTBALL: Southwest vs. The Woodlands Class 5A semifinal photo gallery, May 30, 2014 (photos by KJ Toso)

Photos taken by KJ Toso. For more photos or to purchase photos, please visit:


State semifinal at McCombs Field, Austin

A Southwest fan proudly holds the Team 22 sign aloft at the state semifinal game.
A Southwest fan proudly holds the Team 22 sign aloft at the state semifinal game.
Draons players get fired up before the state semifinal game against The Woodlands.
Dragons players get fired up before the state semifinal game against The Woodlands.
Southwest senior Gabby Flores rounds second base on her fourth-inning RBI double, while a Highlanderfs player awaits the throw from center field.
Southwest senior Gabby Flores rounds second base on her fourth-inning RBI double, while a Highlanders player awaits the throw from center field.

SOFTBALL: Team 22 takes Southwest to new vistas

New approach to season hits jackpot for Dragons

Photos taken by KJ Toso. For more photos or to purchase photos, please visit:

A Southwest fan proudly holds the Team 22 sign aloft at the state semifinal game.
A Southwest fan proudly holds the Team 22 sign aloft at the state semifinal game.
Draons players get fired up before the state semifinal game against The Woodlands.
Dragons players get fired up before the state semifinal game against The Woodlands.



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.”

BASEBALL: Sub-5A strikes blow for little guys with win over 5A

Small-school team wins 31st Valley-Hi Optimists game

Burbank's Tristan Settles contributed to the Sub-5A victory in the 31st Valley-Hi Optimists all-star game Saturday.
Burbank’s Tristan Settles contributed to the Sub-5A victory in the 31st Valley-Hi Optimists all-star game Saturday.
Highlands’ Steven Martinez was an outfielder for a day on the winning Sub-5A squad.


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

Area participants

5A/Private schools

Central Catholic – Josh Godfrey; East Central – Russell Brown.


BrackenridgeJongregory Gonzales; Burbank – Jonathan Alanis, Tristan Settles; Highlands – Steven Martinez; Kennedy – Isiaha Garcia; Lanier – Hector DeHoyos; Memorial – Ivan DeAnda.

SOFTBALL: The Woodlands ends Southwest’s run in state semifinals

Highlanders ride 5-run first to run-rule win

Photo taken by KJ Toso. For more photos or to purchase photos, please visit:

Southwest senior Gabby Flores rounds second base on her fourth-inning RBI double, while a Highlanderfs player awaits the throw from center field.
Southwest senior Gabby Flores rounds second base on her fourth-inning RBI double, while a Highlanders player awaits the throw from center field.


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.”


SOFTBALL: The Woodlands scouting report

Southwest (34-11) vs. The Woodlands (38-3)

Class 5A semifinals

6 p.m. Friday at McCombs Field, Austin

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.

SOFTBALL: Road to the state tournament

Road to the state tournament

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

Region IV championship

(Southwest won series 2-1)

San Marcos 17, Southwest 7 (5 innings)

Southwest 7, San Marcos 3

Southwest 8, San Marcos 7 (8 innings)


Southwest 10-2 postseason record

Southwest 114, opponents 74


Scores for each 2014 The Woodlands playoff game

Bi-district round

(The Woodlands won series 2-0)

The Woodlands 12, Klein Collins 2

The Woodlands 11, Klein Collins 6

Area round

(The Woodlands won series 2-0)

The Woodlands 11, Austin Bowie 6

The Woodlands 5, Austin Bowie 3

Region II quarterfinals

(The Woodlands won series 2-1)

Humble Atoscocita 9, The Woodlands 7

The Woodlands 12, Humble Atoscocita 5

The Woodlands 7, Humble Atoscocita 4

Region II semifinals

(The Woodlands won series 2-0)

The Woodlands 8, Plano West 3

The Woodlands 9, Plano West 3

Region II championship

(The Woodlands won series 2-0)

The Woodlands 14, Rockwall 9

The Woodlands 2, Rockwall 1


The Woodlands 10-1 postseason record

The Woodlands 108, opponents 41

SOFTBALL: Southwest 2014 photo gallery (photos by KJ Toso)

Photos taken by KJ Toso. For more photos or to purchase photos, please visit:

Southwest shortstop Krystal Salinas.
Southwest shortstop Kristal Salinas.
Dragons senior catcher Gabby Flores.
Dragons senior catcher Gabby Flores.
Southwest senior Kamerie Vidales.
Southwest senior Kamerie Vidales.
Dragons senior Liz Phillips.
Dragons senior Liz Phillips.
Southwest junior Caitlin Terrazas.
Southwest sophomore Caitlin Terrazas.
Senior Kamerie Vidales.
Senior Kamerie Vidales.
Dragons sophomore Megan Hernandez.
Dragons sophomore Megan Hernandez.
Kristal Salinas, Faith Aguilar, Amanda Sanchez and Yanira Fernandez (from left to right).
Kristal Salinas, Faith Aguilar, Amanda Sanchez and Yanira Fernandez (from left to right).
Southwest senior catcher Gabby Flores.
Southwest senior catcher Gabby Flores.

SOFTBALL: State playoff schedule/results (complete)

NOTE: teams we cover are in boldface

Games of May 25-31

Friday’s games


State semifinals

Deer Park (38-6) 6, Lubbock Coronado (36-5) 1

The Woodlands (39-3) 12, Southwest (34-12) 2 (6 innings)

Saturday’s game


State championship

Deer Park (39-6) 8, The Woodlands (39-4) 2

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:

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.


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.


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.


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.”