By Moses Leos III
After orchestrating a season-saving comeback on Friday, the Hays Lady Rebels were unable Saturday to replicate a similar feat.
Struggles to rally back from an early deficit brought Hays’ season to a close in a 6-4 loss to the Cedar Ridge Lady Raiders at the Lady Rebel Softball Field.
Cedar Ridge claims the best of three series 2-1 and eliminates Hays from the playoffs.
The theme of the series was Cedar Ridge’s ability to gain an early lead. The Lady Raiders followed the trend Saturday.
Cedar Ridge’s offense found its groove by plating four runs in the first inning.
Hays’ offense followed suit in the second inning, highlighted by a two run homerun from Alyssa Martinez.
The Lady Rebels’ cut the Cedar Ridge lead to 4-2 and held momentum. It added a run in the third inning, punctuated by an RBI single from Madison Allen, cutting the Lady Raider lead to 4-3.
After the Lady Raiders scored a run in the third inning, Lady Rebel senior Kara Davis followed by smashing a solo home run in the fourth frame. Davis’ blast put Hays within a run at 5-4.
Adhering to advice from Hays Lady Rebel head coach Lisa Cone on attacking inside pitches helped Davis.
“Coach was telling us that she was throwing an inside strike,” Davis said. “Inside is my favorite pitch. So I saw it high and inside and I took it out there.”
But the fourth frame marked the final inning Hays scratched across a run.
Hindering the Lady Rebels was the pitching of Hernandez, who pitched in all 22 innings of the series.
Hays struggled to adjust to the slower velocity of Hernandez. While the Lady Rebels generated contact, they couldn’t find consistency; a theme through the series.
“She looks faster than she really is,” Davis said. “Then she comes in with that change up, it just throws you off. It’s hard to see it.”
Cone said an expanded strike zone on Saturday forced Hays batters to take the initiative.
“We had to make a decision. We had to do something to make a difference,” Cone said. “We didn’t adjust to the changeup very well. We kind of let it get to us.”
The issues culminated in the Lady Rebels’ inability to tally a key hit in critical situations. Hays left seven base runners stranded, three of them in scoring position;
Hays’ best and final chance came in the sixth inning. Hays’ Angelica Arroyo led off with a one out triple, but never reached home.
“I think there were people that had off days. I couldn’t hit today,” senior Lizzie Bowne said
Despite the disappointment of an early exit, Bowne said the team’s ability to reach the playoffs and battle was “a big achievement for us.”
Ultimately, Cone was proud of the resiliency shown by Hays during the series. While she loses an experienced senior class, Cone said the younger players now have to carry on the program’s success.
“(The seniors) are leaving behind this legacy, and we expect the younger kids to carry it on,” Cone said. “And I think it will have a definite impact on softball here for along time.”