By Moses Leos III
The Hays Lady Rebels' backs are against the proverbial wall for the second week in a row.
Four total runs scored over a two inning span allowed the Mercedes Lady Tigers to defeat Hays 4-1 Friday in Sinton. Mercedes holds a 1-0 lead in the best of three regional semifinal series. Similar to last week's regional quarterfinal against Dripping Springs, Hays must win two games on Saturday to keep their season going.
Game two is at 1 p.m. Saturday in Sinton. If necessary, game three will follow 30 minutes afterward.
"Give credit to [Mercedes]. They did a good job of battling at the plate, and putting the ball in play when they needed to," Hays head coach Aaron Fuller said. "They got the big hits tonight and we didn’t."
Hays' offensive woes began in the first inning. Senior Maddy Shannon led off with a double, followed by a walk drawn by senior Addie Vayas.
However, Lady Tiger pitcher Dalilah Barrera staved off the attack, stranding Shannon and Vayas. The theme continued to play out, as Hays stranded seven total baserunners, three in scoring position. Barrera went seven innings, giving up four hits, four walks while striking out eight.
Fuller said the team pressured themselves to come up with the clutch hit. Not helping matters was a lack of focus at the plate.
"We swung at bad pitches," he said. "When you do that, you're helping the other pitcher out. It's going to be hard to score runs."
Despite the struggles, Hays managed to take an early lead in the fourth. Junior Haleigh Madden led off by doubling to left center field, and was moved to third via a sacrifice bunt by senior Sarah Leal.
Michelle Pesina drew a walk, which brought up sophomore Karina Rocha, who pulled off a squeeze bunt in front of home plate. The play caught the Mercedes defense napping, as Madden scored to give Hays a 1-0 lead.
With the lead, Fuller placed the game into Leal’s hands.
Hays’ senior pitcher cruised through the first four innings, keeping the Lady Tigers hitless. Things changed in the fifth, as Mercedes got to Leal.
With one out and runners on second and third, Mercedes’ Haley Blanco delivered a two-run RBI double down the left field line. Her hit gave the Lady Tigers a 2-1 lead.
They padded their lead in the sixth. With two outs and a runner on first base, Kristen Gutierrez ripped a double down the left field line, scoring Dominique Garza. Two batters later, Felicia Garza dropped a shallow fly ball down the left field line once again, scoring Dominique to give the Lady Tigers a 4-1 advantage.
Leal said fatigue in the latter innings played a role in her struggles. According to Fuller, Mercedes’ adjustments were the factor.
“Their hitters got a better feel for what [Leal] was throwing,” he said.
Barrera used the three run cushion to cruise the rest of the way. Hays batters couldn’t come up with any answers.
For Fuller, going back to last Saturday’s comeback against Dripping Springs will be necessary. Leal said a renewed focus on hitting could be the key.
“We have to be concentrating on hitting,” Leal said. “We have to concentrate on getting on top of the ball and no dipping.”