The Class 6A No. 9-ranked Belton Tigers Softball took on the Rockwall Yellowjackets in the Region II best-of-three series at West High School on Friday night.
They took care of business, in spite of a couple of head-scratching calls, an uncharacteristic three-error inning, and Mother Nature’s presence that delayed action by just over an hour in the second game.
Belton won the series with a doubleheader sweep of Rockwall, by scores of 4-3 and 7-1.
The Tigers, by winning the first game, set a new school record for wins in a season with 32. They moved the needle up on the record by another win in the nightcap.
In the opening game, Rockwall took the lead in the third inning. Reagan Swindall triple to the right-centerfield to gap and scored on Megan Hampton’s suicide squeeze bunt.
Belton responded with a trio of runs in the bottom of the third, not without controversy.
With one out, Avery Drake walked and stole second base. Miranda Davila reached on an error to put runners at the corners. Caleigh Robinson hit a chopper to second, which Rockwall second baseman Liz Monks immediately relayed back to catcher Sam Bean at the plate. Bean was up the line and impeded Drake’s progress to the plate, to which Drake was forced to slide around and was tagged out. Belton head coach Matt Blackburn queried the home plate umpire about the obstructive positioning of the catcher on the plate and the three-man crew discussed the call. The call was upheld, and Drake was ruled out.
The Tigers scratched through the play, as Nunes walked to load the bases. Madison Sniggs was hit a by 1-0 pitch by Rockwall started Lexi Coward to force home Davila. Maddison Parker hit a sharp grounder to second base which kicked off the leg of Monks and into foul territory to scored Robinson and Nunes to give Belton a 3-1 advantage.
Taylor Tubbs got the game one start for the Tigers and weaved in and out of jams, aided good pitch placement and solid defense from her teammates. The Texas Wesleyan commit scattered five hits in the first four innings.
Belton picked up another run for Tubbs in the bottom of the fourth inning. Madison Ward singled to lead off the inning. With one out, Payton Cook singled and Drake dropped down a bunt single to load the bases. Pinch-hitter Bethany Sherwood’s groundout scored Ward to put Belton up 4-1.
The Yellowjackets scored a run in the fifth inning, as Swindall singled, stole second base, and scored on Bean’s single to cut Belton’s lead to a pair of runs, 4-2.
In the top of the sixth inning, Rockwall benefitted from three miscues to post another run. Elizabeth Schaefer reached on a dropped pop up by Robinson. Erica Speer sacrificed courtesy runner Monks down to second base. Coward hit a pop up that drifted into short centerfield, which Ward could not come up with and landed Coward at first. Carter Smith hit a comebacker to Tubbs in the circle and uncorked an errant throw to Parker at third base and into the Belton dugout to score Monks. The Tigers lead was clipped to one. They opted to intentionally walk Swindall and got Hampton to fly out to Ward in centerfield to get out of the crazy inning.
Cook doubled with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, which forced Tubbs to pitch the top of the seventh with a one-run lead.
Bean was hit with a pitch to start the inning and Tubbs threw Paige Harris out on chopper in front of the plate. After Tubbs struck out Ashley Minor out looking, Schaefer singled and Speer walked to load the bases. Coward hit a blistering shot to Drake at shortstop and she tossed the ball to Davila at second to end the first game.
Tubbs picked up the win in the circle. She went seven innings, allowed three runs (two earned) on eight hits, walked two, hit a batter, and struck out six.
Cook had two hits of the Tigers five hits, as Belton stranded six runners.
Swindall led Rockwall with three of their eight hits, as the Yellowjackets stranded 10 on base.
Coward took the game one loss, as she went six innings, allowed fourth runs (one earned), four hits, hit a batter, walked one, and struck out one.
Belton was the visiting team for game two, which followed the completion of game one by 30 minutes.
With two outs, Coward elevated a pitch belt-high on Robinson and drilled the pitch over the high centerfield wall for her 10th homer of the season to put the Tigers on the board, 1-0.
Madison Cotton got the start in game two and was able to work through a two-out walk in the bottom of the first by striking out Harris to get out of the inning.
Coward worked her own way out of a second inning two-out walk to Ward, as she got Izzy Gutierrez to ground out to end the inning.
With two outs in the second, Speer hit a single to right centerfield and moved to second on an error. Cotton got Coward to ground out to Parker at third base to end the inning.
Belton survived a couple of missed calls in the bottom of the third inning, as Smith and Swindall reached base on slap singles where they were out of the batter’s box. Both were questioned by Blackburn and both upheld after discussions between the three umpires. Smith attempted to steal second and was caught Nunes and Davila at the bag. Swindall moved to second on a groundout by Hampton before the game was halted by lightning with two outs in the bottom of the third inning.
After a delay of just over an hour, Bean was intentionally walked, and Cotton struck out Harris to escape the Yellowjackets’ most serious threat to score at that point.
Nunes doubled to start the fourth and Sniggs knocked her home on a bloop single to right field to up the Tigers’ lead to 2-0.
Cotton got into a rhythm and got good support from her defense, as the Tigers retired nine of 11 hitters in the middle innings.
In the top of the seventh inning, Belton was able to get more insurance for Cotton. Parker walked to start the inning and Kenzie Drake came on to run for her. With one out, Gutierrez reached on an error and Harley Staton came on to run for her. Kenzie Drake and Staton pulled off a double-steal and Cook followed it up with an RBI single. Avery Drake blistered shot off of Smith’s glove at the fence to score Staton and Cook. Davila dropped down a bunt single to move Avery Drake to third base and then stole second base. Robinson singled home Avery Drake to make the score 6-0. Rockwall head coach Shadie Acosta brought on Harris in relief to face Nunes. On a 1-2 pitch, Nunes popped out to Bean at the backstop and Davila tagged from third to score make the score 7-0.
It was all Cotton needed to work in the seventh inning. Rockwall scored an unearned run on an error and an RBI single by Swindall. Cotton struck out Hampton to end the game and the series.
Cotton got the win for the Tigers, as she pitched seven innings, allowed an unearned run on four hits, walked four and struck out eight.
Avery Drake and Robinson each had two hits to pace the Tigers’ 10-hit attack, as they stranded just four runners on base.
Swindall had two of Rockwall’s four hits, as they stranded seven runners on base.
Coward took the game two loss, as she pitched 6 1/3 innings, allowed seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits, walked two and struck out three. Harris retired the two batters that she faced.
The Tigers will take on No. 2 Klein Collins in the Class 6A Region II Semifinals this upcoming week.