It’s not hard to recognize a clutch hitter when the chips are down.
No one in Central Texas over the past couple of weeks has had a hotter bat than Belton Lady Tigers’ first baseman Caleigh Robinson. And no one will forget the playoff series that she just completed against the Irving MacArthur Lady Cardinals.
Robinson’s walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning completed a Belton five-run rally to end the Texas UIL Class 6A Bi-District Playoff series against the Lady Cards at Lady Tiger Field Friday night, 13-0.
Taylor Tubbs got the start for Belton in the circle. On the second pitch of the game, Bri Miller singled. Miller’s single ended MacArthur’s drought against Lady Tiger pitching, having been no-hit in 2015 by Sidney Holman in a 14-0 loss during the area playoffs and Thursday night by Madison Cotton, 14-0. Tubbs retired the next two hitters before issuing a walk to Kayla Allen to put runners at first and second. Unfazed, Tubbs set down Desiree Nziramasanga swinging to end the first inning.
Bethany Edwards walked and Robinson singled with two outs in the first inning. Irving MacArthur starting pitcher Maddie Golightly retired Madison Ward on a short pop up to third baseman Bethany Garnica to end the first inning with a scoreless tie.
After Tubbs retired the side in order in the top of the second, the Lady Tigers scored five runs to support her in the circle. Madison Bartlett doubled to start the inning and moved to third on a wild pitch with one out. Miranda Davila was hit by 1-2 pitch in the facemask, putting her at first and she calmly swiped second. Jarvis struck out, but Madison Bartlett crossed the dropped ball and put Belton on the board, 1-0. Davila scored on a wild pitch to increase the lead to 2-0. Avery Drake walked and stole second base to set up Madison Bartlett’s RBI single to make the score 3-0. A two-base error moved Madison Bartlett to third base and she was driven home by Edwards’ single. Edwards’ courtesy runner, Payton Cook, stole second base and scored on Robinson’s single to complete the five-run second inning.
Tubbs and Golightly retired the respective sides in the third inning.
In the top of the fourth inning, Golightly singled and Allen sacrificed her to second base. Nziramasanga was hit on a 1-2 pitch from Tubbs, putting runners on first and second. Mandi Peterson’s ground out to second base moved Nziramasanga to second base. Tubbs retired Garnica on strikes to end the threat.
Drake started the fourth inning with a double and a stolen base. Mackenzie Bartlett singled Drake in to increase Belton’s lead to 6-0. After a ground out by Edwards that moved Mackenzie Bartlett to second base, Robinson punched a 1-0 pitch over the left centerfield fence that scored the pair and gave Belton an 8-0 lead. Ward singled and Madison Bartlett walked to give the Lady Tigers a chance to get to run-rule territory, but a strikeout and an interference call eliminated that chance.
Belton (26-6) went back into the dugout to start the bottom of the fifth on a mission: to the series. Jarvis singled, stole second base, moved to third on Drake’s single, stayed put on Mackenzie Bartlett’s bunt single to load the bases and scored on Edwards’ single that dropped in front of left fielder Cierra Colquitt to bring up Robinson. On an 0-2 pitch, and in almost a virtual silence at Lady Tiger Field, Robinson crushed the pitch over the flag pole in centerfield for a grand slam home run to end the game, 13-0, and end the series sweep for Belton over Irving MacArthur.
Robinson was 4-of-4 on the night with two home runs and seven runs batted in. For the series, Robinson went 7-of-8 with two home runs and 12 RBI. Six of the seven hits knocked in runs and four of those were multiple RBI hits.
“She was unbelievable in this series,” Belton head coach Matt Blackburn said. “She absolutely crushed the grand slam. Early in the game, I told her to sit on something middle-away. Late in the game, I told her to sit on something that you can drive deep, especially you only needed one run. A deep fly ball scores a run there. She’s just seeing the ball really well. When you think that we’ve scored 27 runs in two games and 12 came off of her stick in the cleanup spot, that’s huge.”
Mackenzie Bartlett went 3-of-4 with two runs batted in and three runs scored. Edwards went 2-of-3 with two runs batted in and Drake went 2-of-3 with three runs scored and two stolen bases, increasing her school record to 46 for the season.
Just one day after Cotton’s (17-6) no-hitter, Tubbs (7-0) was solid in the circle and got the complete game win. She pitched five innings, allowed just three hits, one walk and struck out eight.
“The biggest question mark we’ve had all year was how our pitchers were going to respond. Neither of them had ever pitched in a playoff game,” Blackburn said. “Tubbs and Cotton did a fantastic job in this series. Defensively, we played 10 innings without an error.”
“Belton hits the ball well, throws the ball well and is well coached. Top to bottom they are pretty good,” MacArthur coach Scott McTee said. “I’m proud of my girls. We overachieved. This is our third year in a row in the playoffs, which for MacArthur is a first. We’re trying to get to the level of a Belton. It’s going to take some time, but we’re going to get there.”
Belton will take on District 6-6A No. 4 seeded Wylie, following their sweep of District 7-6A No. 1 seeded Flower Mound by scores of 4-3 and 2-1. That series will start next week.