The Hays Lady Rebels remained undefeated in district play following a nine strikeout performance from sophomore pitcher Maxine Valdez in a 6-1 victory Friday over the crosstown rival Lehman Lobos.
With the win, along with a loss by Lake Travis to Westlake Friday, the Lady Rebels essentially clinched at least a share of the 25-6A district title.
The young and relatively inexperienced Lady Lobos got off to a slow defensive start as they allowed three Rebel runs on four hits, including back-to-back-to-back RBI singles in the first frame.
The Rebels hitting barrage extended into the second inning as they tacked on three more hits and one run to pad their lead to 4-0.
Lehman head coach Lydia Baggett said that the real struggle isn’t the defense, it’s hitting the ball.
“We have a great defense. We really do,” said Baggett. “Yes, you’re going to have hiccups, you’re going to make mistakes – that’s the sport – we just have to find a way to hit the ball.”
Things began to trend in the Lobos’ favor in the third inning.
After an early pitching change, the Lehman defense forced the Rebel lineup to go in order in the top of the third.
That momentum carried into the bottom of the frame with a lead-off triple from sophomore shortstop Seryna Avalos. A two-out RBI single down the right field line from senior third baseman Alyssa Martinez drove in Avalos, who scored the first and only run of the game for Lehman.
Valdez countered right back by striking out her next four batters, which swung the pendulum of momentum back to the Rebels.
But her most impressive play came in the bottom of the third. Valdez, who was working with a runner on third base, caught a hard hit ground ball headed straight to the circle. She then looked down the Lobo baserunner to keep her on third base, then spun around to create a forced out at first base.
When asked what was working for her, the soft-spoken pitcher provided a pragmatic response.
“Lots of rise,” said Valdez. “My rise and curve were both working tonight.”
After Lehman countered with a run scored on two hits in the fourth frame, Valdez did not allow another hit for the remainder of the game.
Equally impressive was Lehman’s junior pitcher Kaylee Wipff, who relieved starter Lexi Bechtel. Wipff allowed only two runs on four hits in her five inning outing.
Hays tacked on two insurance runs in the top of the seventh to take a 6-1 lead.
With a first place finish essentially secured, Hays High head coach Lisa Cone said she expects to get every team’s best effort down the stretch as the Rebels seek district perfection.
“It’s hard because everybody else is getting better, and they know we’re undefeated so they want to work that much harder to take us down. Lehman played great tonight, so I expect to see that kind of softball from everybody going forward,” Cone said.
Valdez seconded her coach’s sentiment.
“We’re just pumped and ready to keep rolling,” Valdez said.