by MOSES LEOS III
Timely hitting and strong pitching helped the Hays High Lady Rebel softball team defeat Seguin 7-4 on Thursday. The victory boosted the Rebels’ claim to second place in Class 4A statewide poll, released by the Texas Girls Coaches Association Monday.
Hays dove into action in the second inning, as Lady Rebel Haleigh Madden reached first base on an error. After a Brayden Pinckard double, Karina Rocha hit into a fielder’s choice to score the games’ first run. Junior Sarah Leal followed with a bunt down the first base line, scoring Pinckard to give Hays a 2-0 lead.
The Rebel offense stepped up again in the bottom of the third. After Seguin cut the Hays lead to 2-1 in the top half, the Rebels countered with big hits from Maddy Shannon and senior Hannah Ramsey, who slapped a triple into center field to score Shannon. Hays led to 3-1.
“It was all about getting the run in. I was focused on hitting the ball hard and getting the ball into the gap,” Ramsey said.
Seguin challengeed the Rebels defensively in the fourth and fifth innings. The Lady Matadors penchant to string together hits, along with a few Rebel miscues, allowed Seguin to place runners in scoring position. Seguin took advantage in the fifth inning, scoring two runs to force a 3-3 tie.
Hays High head coach Aaron Fuller said he sensed the momentum shift, saying he understood his team needed to relax and play the game. “I told the kids, ‘things are going to happen, you’re going to get bad hops in a game.’ Seguin is a good team. They put a lot of pressure on the defense; they are going to score runs. I told (the team), ‘we’re not out of it. Just because they are putting the ball in play, putting pressure on us, hops are not going your way, we’re making mistakes, we’re not out of it’,” Fuller said.
The Rebels took that speech to heart, as they left Matadors on base in the fourth and fifth innings. The pitching of Sarah Leal, was key as she pulled the Lady Rebels out of numerous jams in the contest. Leal’s cool demeanor kept the Seguin rally in the fifth to only two runs.
“Starting off with first pitch strikes was key. I also knew that my defense was behind me today. The main part of pitching is pounding the strike zone. All I could do was to pitch my best … to make sure my curve was on, my (rise ball) was rising. Seguin went after a couple of pitches, which helped a lot,” said Leal, who forced Seguin to leave five runners on base in the fourth and fifth innings.
The Rebel offense proved to be the catalyst for a fifth inning momentum shift, starting off with Ramsey reaching first by outrunning a throw from Seguin third-baseman Alexis Nixon. Clarissa Gonzales next singled into right field, with the ball nearly hitting Ramsey on her way to second base.
After Madden moved the Rebel runners into scoring position, Pinckard stepped up to the plate. Pinckard delivered in a big way, smashing a ground ball through the right side of the infield and rolling beyond the reach of the Seguin right fielder.
Pinckard’s hit cleared the bases, scoring both runs. She eventually rounded the diamond, scoring a rare inside-the-park homerun to give Hays a 6-3 advantage.
“Honestly, I thought I was just going to get a single,” Pinckard said. “However, when I saw the ball go past (the fielder), I started running (faster). I was surprised when (my coach) sent me home. The only thing that went through my mind was, ‘I’ve got to run.’ I needed to put my wheels on, to run fast.”
Both squads scored one reach each in the final inning and half.
“We knew that they are a good hitting team, who puts the ball in play. The key (to the win) was to make sure we had a solid defense. We knew that they were going to score runs, so our goal was to limit them to how many they score,” said Pinckard.
The victory improves the Rebels to 20-1-1 on the year, with a perfect 5-0 mark in 27-4A play.