The Belton Tigers Softball team was thrown a curveball after curveball on Friday, literally and figuratively.
The dreary weather in Central Texas has made lives of Texas softball players misery.
With the wet weather conditions, the second game of the Belton-Mansfield Class 6A Region II Bi-District was moved from Mansfield and a 7:30 p.m. start to Irving Nimitz, an artificial turf field in the Metroplex and a 5:30 p.m. start.
After Belton’s potent offense suffered a power-outage in the first game, they came to life in the second game.
However, Mansfield’s offense stayed just as hot. Along with seven uncharacteristic Belton errors that resulted in six unearned runs, Mansfield claimed the series with a 13-8 win.
The loss ended Belton’s season at 13-12-1. The playoff qualification was Belton’s 24th consecutive, excluding the 2020 season where the state-wide playoffs were not held due to COVID-19.
Belton grabbed an early lead to put pressure on Mansfield and their starting pitch, Hawwa Townsend. Esper Moreno singled to lead off the game. With one out, Paige Nunes doubled Moreno to third base. Bethany Sherwood’s sacrifice fly to right-centerfield scored Moreno to give Belton a 1-0 lead.
Mansfield answered in the bottom of the first inning off of Belton starting pitcher Kaylee Jordan. Jadyn Ferguson tripled to left-centerfield and scored on Macy Hamilton’s groundout to tie the game at 1-1.
The score stayed tied until the bottom of the third inning, Miyah Jackson’s double scored Ferguson. Jackson moved to third on an error and scored on Emilee Watkins’ sacrifice fly to give Mansfield a 3-1 lead.
Belton counterpunched with a two-run inning in the top of the fourth. Nunes started the inning with a double and scored on an error that landed McKayla Owens on base. Tristyn Barton reached on an error that moved Owens to third base. Owens scored on Kaylee Jordan’s single. Jordan was thrown out attempt to stretch the single into a double on a close play at second base.
Mansfield answered back with a five-run fourth inning. Emma Mayes hit Jordan’s first pitch of the inning over the centerfield fence to give Mansfield the lead for good. Zoey Johnson reached on an error and was run for by Sammy Hagman. Ferguson drove in Hagman with her second triple of the game. Ferguson scored on an error to extend Mansfield’s lead to three, 6-3. After a walk to Hamilton, Jackson hit a 1-2 fastball over the left-centerfield wall to extend the lead to five runs, 8-3.
Belton responded with a four-run fifth inning. Kaylee Rodriguez and Moreno each reached on errors to start the rally. With one out, Nunes singled home Rodriguez. On a 1-1 fastball from Mansfield relief pitcher Watkins, Sherwood blasted her fifth home run of the season over the left-centerfield wall to pull Belton back to within a run, 8-7. Watkins slammed the rally window shut with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
Mansfield pulled away from Belton with a five-run rally of their own. Mayes singled to start the inning. On a 2-0 pitch, Blake Borg hit a towering fly ball over the wall in centerfield for a homer to give Mansfield a three-run lead, 10-7. Johnson and Ferguson singled, and Hamilton was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Jackson’s sacrifice fly scored Johnson and an error scored Ferguson. Watkins’ fielder’s choice scored Hamilton to put Mansfield up by six runs, 13-7.
Jordan doubled to lead off the Belton sixth inning. With two outs, Moreno singled home Jordan to clip Mansfield’s lead back to five runs. However, Watkins struck out the next three batters and fielded a grounder over the next inning and a third to help move Mansfield forward into the area playoffs where they will take on No. 23 Rockwall.
Ferguson was 4-of-4, as Mansfield collected 11 hits, Jackson batted in four of Mansfield’s 13 runs. Mansfield left five runners on base.
Townsend got the win in the circle. She pitched four innings, allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits and struck out one. Watkins pitched three innings of relief, allowed five runs (one earned) on four hits and struck out five.
Nunes had three hits, Moreno and Jordan had two hits, and Sherwood had a hit to combine for Belton’s eight hits. Sherwood drove home four of Belton runs. Belton left three runners on base.
Jordan pitched five innings, allowed 13 runs (seven earned) on 11 hits, struck out one and walked one. Aizlenn Canava pitched an inning of relief, having retired all three batters.
The loss ended the careers of Belton seniors Tristyn Barton, Emily Parker, Azaelia Williams, Paige Nunes, Bryce Allen-Bourland, Rachel Bledsoe, Bethany Sherwood, Kayley Thompson, McKayla Owens, and Jordan Martinson.