By Moses Leos III
Confidence is something Hays High senior Nadia Netek carries with her every time she steps into the pitching circle.
Before every game, Netek scribbles the word in eye black on her right arm, symbolizing a reminder to keep her confidence up.
Netek took that word to heart Saturday as she pitched a two-hit, complete game shutout in a 5-0 win over the Westwood Warriors, which capped off a two-game bidistrict playoff round sweep. For Netek, the series win not only boosts the confidence for the team, but lifted a weight off the team’s shoulders.
“It was really big. It lifted a weight off of our shoulders,” Netek said. “We have more confidence in ourselves to go farther. We have a good team this year, so I’m excited to see what we can do.”
Strong pitching and adept defensive play carried the Lady Rebels in the series. Hays limited the Warriors to only one run over the course of fourteen innings.
The Lady Rebels began by defeating Westwood 5-1 in a game that began Thursay evening, but was suspended and finished Friday at Hays High.
Hays took its 1-0 series lead to Westwood, where stellar play in the infield stymied Warrior bats.
Led by shortstop Alyssa Martinez and third baseman Lulu Arroyo, Hays’ defense made the routine plays to record outs and keep the Warriors off the board.
Hays High head coach Lisa Cone said the team is excited about reaching the postseason, and that they know “the importance of taking care of business.” She said the team had a “goal defensively and you could see that.”
“That’s what that is and they are having fun,” Cone said.
She added the team’s focus on defensive fundamentals in practice helped spur success.
Netek lauded the play of her defense to provide her support.
“I was confident in my defense, that they were able to back me up,” Netek said.
In the circle, Netek proved dominant Saturday, limiting Westwood to only two hits and three baserunners.
Cone said Netek was able to move the ball well and hit her spots. She added Westwood batters were unable to find a rhythm on offense.
“(Nadia) was definitely in charge on the mound today,” Cone said.
As the Rebel defense found its groove, Hays’ offense worked to push runs across.
But Hays’ offense couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities presented. While Hays was able to get runners on the base paths, they left 11 baserunners stranded, seven of those in scoring position.
Cone said the Lady Rebels struggled with turning on the inside pitches of Westwood pitcher Haley Popelka. She said in game one, the Lady Rebel offense keyed on Popelka’s outside pitches, which led to the Warriors making an adjustment.
“In the first game, she pitched us outside, and we were all over it,” Con said. “We have to work on (the inside pitches). The girls love the inside pitch. That’s their pitch.”
Hays led 1-0 before opening up the gates for a four-run salvo in the bottom of the fifth.
It was kick-started when Hays loaded the bases with one out. A passed ball then scored Netek, who was at third base. Martinez, who advanced to third base on the passed ball, then stole home after the play as the umpire didn’t call a dead ball.
With a 3-0 lead, Hays’ Abbie Blackwell walloped a two-run RBI double to give Hays a 5-0 lead they held the rest of the way.
Hays now readies for its area round matchup against Klein Oak, which will be played Friday at Bryan Rudder HIgh.
Cone said the team is excited, but she is also proud of their accomplishments.
“I know for them, all of that hard work seems to pay off,” Cone said. “Hopefully this means they’ll get on a roll and they’ll win and win and win.”