Rising to the occasion last week helped the Hays Rebel softball team power its way into the second round of the playoffs.
An aggressive approach at the plate, mixed with strong pitching, allowed Hays to eliminate the San Antonio Madison Mavericks 10-5 and 13-3 in a two-game sweep.
With the wins, Hays advances to play San Antonio Brennan in a best-of-3 area round playoff series. Game 1 is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m., while Game 2 is set for Saturday at noon. If necessary, Game 3 will be at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. All games will be played at Judson High.
Big plays in the clutch, both on offense and defense, carried the Rebels in its bidistrict round series.
They began Game 1 with a seven run outburst in the first inning where 12 Rebels went to the plate.
Leading the way was Brianna Rodriguez, who went 4 for 5 in Game 1 with two RBIs. Rodriguez finished the series going 7 for 10 at the plate.
Lisa Cone, Hays High head softball coach, said the team can “count on anyone to get a rally going.”
“Once they get started, they feel those emotions about getting on the ball, and that helps us in the dugout … They get behind each other when they get a rally going.”
Lisa Cone, Lady Rebel coach
But Hays’ offense went cold for the next four innings. Madison took the opportunity to strike back.
The Mavs tallied two runs in the second inning, followed by scoring three runs in the fourth frame. Madison loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth frame. Madison’s move came as Hays was without Rodriguez and starting pitcher Maxine Valdez, who dealt with illnesses midway through the game.
But Cone stressed to her team to relax during the Maverick comeback.
“I said, ‘We need to relax and play our game and don’t get panicked and don’t get stressed,’” Cone said. “I knew they were going to rise to the occasion, so it calmed us down.”
Valdez, who reentered the game, forced a double play to end the Maverick threat.
Hays returned the favor in the sixth inning by scoring three runs to cement the win, highlighted by a two-run RBI double from Illyana Cisneros.
Hays carried momentum into Game 2 with the Rebels getting off to a quick 3-0 start in the third inning.
After Madison countered with a run in the bottom half of the third inning, the Rebels gained separation via a three-run fourth inning.
From there, Valdez put a stopper on the Madison offense, limiting Madison to only two runs and two hits the rest of the way.
Cone attributed Valdez’s success to overcoming first-round nerves. Valdez’s ability to adjust to Madison batters also played a factor in her success.
“If it’s a certain pitch, we’ll leave it and we’ll work on it later. Sometimes it’s not thinking about it for a while and letting the muscle memory take over,” Cone said. “I think having this behind us will help us along.”
Hays now prepares for Brennan, which finished second in 28-6A, amid a week where STAAR testing will take precedence. For Cone, having many of her younger players get their first taste of playoff softball was beneficial.
“All of this is going to help us in the next series,” Cone said. “I feel confident we’ll play as ourselves from the get-go and not have as many issues.”