By Moses Leos III
With the season on the line Monday, Hays High senior pitcher Kara Davis knew she had to bring the heat.
Seven dominant innings from Davis, mixed with a timely Lady Rebel offense, guided Hays to a season-saving 5-0 win over the Austin Maroons in a one game playoff at Del Valle High.
“We knew we had to bring it tonight,” Davis said. “I had to bring the heat tonight. I knew (my teammates) could bring the heat.”
With the win, Hays clinches the final playoff spot in 14-6A. The Lady Rebels move on to play the Cedar Ridge Raiders in a three game series starting Thursday.
Davis provided the base for Hays’ success, giving up only three hits and one walk in a complete game effort.
For Davis, taking the game “pitch by pitch” was an important factor. An aggressive mentality early in pitch counts allowed Davis to gain confidence as the game wore on.
Hays High head coach Lisa Cone said the focus was jamming Austin batters. Davis said she stayed away from the outside portion, which Austin thrived on in their last meeting.
The mentality paid off in the third inning, as Davis thwarted an Austin threat by forcing a 6-3-5 double play.
“We jammed them inside a lot. They can hit my curve ball,” Davis said. “I came in more than usual. That’s what threw them off.”
The Lady Rebel offense worked to combat Maroon pitcher Vanessa Castro, who Davis said shut Hays down in their last meeting.
Castro proved effective over the first three innings, limiting Hays to only one hit. But Hays maintained an aggressive stance, swinging early and often at Castro’s offerings.
Lady Rebel senior Aspen Salazar said the aggressive mindset was built on a passive mentality early in the year.
“In past games, we came out in the sixth or seventh inning, we’re hardcore and we’re getting our runs and it’s going,” Salazar said. “But if we did that earlier in the game, we could have produced more runs.”
Hays got the ball rolling in the fourth frame, plating three key runs, two of them earned. Hays’ Maria Arroyo provided the damage by smashing a two-run RBI single, while Kaylee Lind scored an RBI double.
Hays held a 3-0 advantage and added to its lead in the fifth. A two-run RBI single from Salazar gave Hays a 5-0 lead and out of reach for the Maroons.
“I saw where our base-runners were and I knew I needed a timely hit,” Salazar said. “I was like, ‘just do your thing. Clear your head and do what you do.’”
But on the horizon lies 13-6A winner and state ranked Cedar Ridge. For Cone, carrying the momentum gained from Monday is the key.
“It’s definitely going to help us, that momentum. Just carrying that momentum from this game to the next,” Cone said. “We are going to have to fight. This is the perfect game to get us to that.”