Hays pitcher Maxine Valdez’s confidence was wavering.
After pitching three consecutive innings without allowing a hit or a baserunner, Valdez allowed two runs to score in the fourth inning. She hit a batter, gave up a single, and two wild pitches put a pair of runners in scoring position.
Lehman’s two runs in the fourth were courtesy of Gabby Rodriguez and M. Trinbur.
Valdez, still reeling from Lehman’s rally, started the next at-bat with three consecutive balls. By then, Hays softball coach Lisa Cone had seen enough. She visited the mound to console her young pitcher.
“I just said, ‘Relax, make the defense work, don’t try and do too much,’” Cone said. “That was it.”
Cone left Valdez in the game, trusting she would find her way out of the jam.
Valdez forced a pop-out to the catcher and struck out the next batter in three straight pitches. Lehman never scored again and the Hays softball team picked up a convincing 12-2 victory over its cross-town rivals Friday night.
“That one inning they got a little rally going, we shut them down,” Cone said. “I was proud of that.”
Valdez pitched the entire game, allowing just two runs and one hit in six innings.
“She did an awesome job on the mound tonight,” Cone said. “I’m very proud of her. She’s got great pitches and I think they had a hard time catching up.”
With Valdez going to work, the Rebels’ offense provided more than enough oomph to earn a blowout win.
Hays’ Brianna Rodriguez lined a double to centerfield on the first pitch of the game. Kaylin Davis intended on giving up an out to move Rodriguez over to second base, but Lehman misplaced the bunt and both runners were safe. A soft-line drive from Lou Arroyo scored the first runner and a wild pitch on the ensuing pitch added another Rebel run.
By the end of the first inning, Hays led 2-0.
“We have been playing from behind a lot so this game we changed things around,” Cone said. “We got on the ball early and stayed on the ball. That was good for us. Scored a lot of runs offensively and held them defensively.”
Everything came together for the Rebels Friday night.
Hays scored runs in the first, second, third, fourth and sixth innings. Rodriguez finished 3-of-4 at the plate, with two doubles, a walk and two runs batted in. Her last hit, another line drive to centerfield, drove in the game’s last run.
“Our energy tonight was great and that has a lot to do with it,” Cone said. “They were having fun and that’s very important. It’s also a cross-town rival and they know how important the game was and how important it was to come out and get on them and stay on them.”