By Moses Leos III and Josh McKinney
An offensive explosion over a 13-inning span guided the Hays Lady Rebels back from the brink of elimination.
After dropping game one, Hays outscored the Dripping Springs Lady Tigers in the final two games of the series to claim the regional quarterfinal championship.
“Our hitters struggled early on, but we continued to fight, continued to battle and we finally put stuff together,” Hays head coach Aaron Fuller said.
Hays advances to take on Mercedes in the regional semifinal. Their best of three series begins Friday at 7:30 p.m. Games two and three will be played Saturday starting at 1 p.m. All games will be played at Sinton High School.
While Rebel bats thrived in games two and three, Hays struggled in game one.
Dominance from sophomore pitcher Amber Womack led the Lady Tigers to a 5-3 win in ten innings on Thursday.
Womack’s velocity caused problems for the Rebel offense, which struck out 16 times. A lack of aggression at the plate also contributed to the struggles.
It didn’t take Fuller long to take charge. The Lady Rebels went to their batting cages, focusing on defending the plate.
“We tried to get across that you have to go up there with a mindset knowing that’s what she’s going to throw,” Fuller said. “We kept fighting and adjusting until we figured it out.”
With their backs against the wall, Hays responded with a fury in game two.
A change of venue due to weather couldn’t curb Lady Rebel bats in a 10-3 win Friday in San Marcos.
Haleigh Madden led the Rebels with two hits, including an RBI triple in the first inning, two RBIs and two runs. Alyssa Martinez reached base twice in the game with a walk and a hit by pitch, and played sublime defense at third to keep the Tigers’ hitters off the bases.
Senior Sarah Leal pitched seven innings for the Rebels Friday night, giving up three runs while striking out four batters and picking up the win.
Sydney Campbell led the Tigers offense, driving in two of the Tigers’ runs with an RBI double in the sixth and scoring that same inning on an error to third by Rebels first baseman Katrina Rocha. Amber Womack started for the Tigers and picked up the loss. Womack pitched five innings with three strikeouts, three walks, six hits and six earned runs.
It culminated to Saturday’s rubber match at New Braunfels Canyon. The Lady Rebels continued the momentum as they rolled past Dripping Springs in a run-rule shortened 10-0 win in six innings.
Hays’ offense initially struggled against an injured Womack. Dripping Springs’ sophomore pitcher powered through a serious hip injury, striking out eight batters in 4.1 innings pitched.
“I was shaky about (starting). I wanted to see how I was feeling,” Womack said. “They wrapped my hip in place. I felt good.”
Rocha turned the tide in the fourth, as she ripped an RBI double to take a 1-0 lead.
Hays then struck with a vengeance in the fifth.
Arroyo doubled to lead off, and scored after back-to-back Lady Tiger errors. Two more runs scored via an infield single from Leal. The bases were soon loaded for Rocha, who delivered a towering grand slam to left center field, placing Hays ahead 8-0.
Leal then shut the door on the Lady Tigers. Despite giving up five hits, Leal powered through, keeping Dripping Springs’ batters off-balance.
Leal, who went 23 innings in the series with 15 strikeouts, said adrenaline fueled her stint in the circle. Winning game two also provided a base for the game three.
“We told ourselves we can beat them; we can do this. We beat them before and we’ll do it again,” Leal said. “It gave us courage and faith to win game three.”
The Lady Rebels added two more runs in the sixth, putting the game well out of reach.
Leal credited the teams’ ability to follow through and carry momentum in games two and three. Fixing defensive woes became a staple of success for Hays.
“After game one, we decided we needed redemption (defensively) – that was our key word,” Rocha said. “That’s what we did.”
Continuing their quest for back-to-back titles meant quite a bit to Fuller.
“It feels great to come up with a big win and advance,” he said. “I can’t say how proud I am of our girls, fighting with their backs on [the]wall two nights in a row.”