The Class 6A No. 15 Belton Lady Tigers traveled on Saturday to take on the Lady Tigers of a different breed: Class 5 No. 3 Dripping Springs Tigers.
Both teams used Saturday’s matchup as a tune up for the upcoming playoffs and both had not lost a game since February 23.
Belton worked their way back from a 4-1 deficit in the top of the sixth inning with a solo home run by Izzy Gutierrez, and in the seventh inning on an RBI fielder’s choice by Madison Ward, and a run scored by Avery Drake on a Dripping Springs’ throwing error. But a walk-off solo home run by MacKenzie Pierpoint with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning earned Dripping Springs a 5-4 win.
Dripping Springs improved their record to 30-2 and extended their winning streak to 20 games. Their last loss was to Class 5A No. 2 Barbers Hill on February 23, 3-1 in nine innings.
The loss snapped Belton’s 17-game winning streak and they are 25-6 on the season with two games left to play. Prior to Saturday, Belton’s last loss was to Class 6A No. 18 Austin High, 2-0.
Belton’s first serious threat of the game came in the top of the second inning. Paige Nunes led off the inning by drilling a 1-0 fastball from Dripping Springs’ starting pitcher Logan Hulen high off the centerfield batter’s eye wall for a double. But Hulen buckled down to retire Madison Sniggs, Madison Ward, and Maddison Parker in order to strand Nunes at second base.
Madison Cotton had a solid start in the circle for Belton. After surrendering a leadoff walk to Camille Corona in the first inning and Pierpoint reached in the second inning, Cotton got out of trouble in the opening two frames.
With one out in the top of the third inning, Harley Staton blistered a fastball into left field for single. Staton stole second base and advanced to third base on a wild pitch. But Hulen struck out the next two batters to retire the side.
Dripping Springs cracked into the run column in the third inning. With one out, Corona hit a single into left center field and when she attempted to take second base, a throw went into deep center field. Corona scored from second base and Dripping Springs took a 1-0 lead.
Belton put together a solid scoring opportunity in the top of the fourth inning. With one out, Nunes reached on an infield single, was replaced on base by Jayden Tabler and Sniggs singled up the middle to give Belton runners on first and second base. But Hulen induced a flyout and ground out to get Dripping Springs out of trouble.
Hulen helped her own cause in the bottom of the fourth inning. Jayna Reid singled and stole second base with one out. Hulen singled to left center field to bring Reid around to score to put Dripping Springs up 2-0. Cotton struck out Pierpoint and Izzy Bermudez to get Belton out of any additional hot water.
Gutierrez worked Hulen into a full-count to start the fifth inning. On the payoff pitch, Gutierrez blasted a belt-high fastball over the right center field fence to put Belton on the board, 4-1. With one out, Drake doubled and Miranda Davila sacrifice bunted her to third base. But Hulen got a strike out to end the threat, stranding Drake at third base.
Dripping Springs added two runs in the bottom of the fifth inning. Brooke Rummel singled to start the inning before scoring on Corona’s triple. Kyndall Womack drove home Corona with a single and advanced to second on Ryan Campbell’s sacrifice bunt. Cotton got Bailey Hudgeons to ground out to Davila at second base and struck out Reid to keep more damage from happening.
In the top of the sixth inning, Belton chipped away at the deficit. Nunes walked to start the inning, stole second and third base. With one out, Ward hit a slow roller down the first base line. Instead of taking the out at first base, Womack chose to throw to Hudgeons at the plate. Nunes slid around the tag safely to make the score 4-2. With two outs, Gutierrez doubled to right field center to score Tabler, who ran for Ward, and bring Belton to within a run, 4-3.
Cotton struck out the first two batters in the bottom of the sixth inning before Bermudez singled. Cotton got Brooke Rummel to foul out to Caleigh Robinson at first base to retire the side.
Belton needed a break in the top of the seventh and took advantage of a huge one. Drake walked to start the inning and Davila singled her to second base. During Robinson’s at-bat, Hudgeons tried to catch Drake off of second base and the throw ended up in deep center field. Drake scored easily to tie the game at 4-4 and Davila moved to second base. But two strikeouts and a ground out later, Dripping Springs was able to strand Davila at second.
Hannah Kelley relieved Cotton in the circle to start the bottom of the seventh inning. Corona singled and Womack reached on an error to begin the inning. Campbell bunted between the circle and third base. Kelley chose to throw to Maddison Parker to force out the speedy Corona at third base. Kelley then induced a flyout and foul out to Drake to force an extra inning.
With two outs in the top of the eighth inning, Dripping Springs head coach Wade Womack chose to intentionally walk Gutierrez to pitch to Staton. Having hit a massive fly ball in the prior at bat just a foot to the left of the foul pole in left field, Kyndall Womack struck out Staton on a full-count fast ball to end the Belton eighth inning.
After retiring Jessica Gonzales to start the Dripping Springs’ eighth inning, Kelley faced Pierpoint. On a 2-1 pitch, Kelley elevated a fastball that Pierpoint drilled to deep center, just to the left of the batter’s eye fence. Ward leapt to try and reel it in the ball, but it was just out of her reach. Pierpoint celebrated, as she rounded the bases, and made her way home. Ward was hugged by Sniggs for her great effort at the wall, but the loss was what Belton was thinking about at the moment.
Corona reached all four times for Dripping Springs, going 3-for-3 with a walk and an RBI. No other Dripping Springs batter had more than one hit, as they stranded seven runners on base.
Cotton pitched six innings and did not figure in the decision. She allowed four runs (three earned) on seven hits, walked one and struck out 10. Kelley suffered the loss, as she pitched 1 1/3 inning, allowed one run on two hits.
Gutierrez went 2-for-3 with an intentional walk, homer, double and two RBI. Nunes also went 2-for-3, Belton collected eight hits and stranded eight runners on base. Seven of the eight runners were in scoring position.
Belton will travel to the Waco ISD Softball Complex to take on the Lady Lions on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.