One step short: Early runs doom Dripping Springs in state semifinal

It took one inning Friday for the Willis Wildkats to place the Dripping Springs Tigers’ state title hopes out of reach.

Three first inning Wildkat runs, along with dominant pitching from Willis’ Casey Dixon, sunk Dripping Springs (35-9) in a 5-0 loss at the UIL Class 5A state semifinal at McCombs Field in Austin.

Willis (41-8) capitalized on first inning struggles from Tiger pitcher Kiele Miller, who walked the initial two batters she faced in the first inning.

Dripping Springs’ senior Kiele Miller (center) steps out of the circle for the final time as a Lady Tiger. Miller, a four-year starter, was the 2016 District 26-5A Pitcher of the Year, and will be earning her degree while playing softball at Creighton University. (photo by Wayland D. Clark,

Wildkat junior Samara Lagway followed by belting an RBI triple down the left field line, which gave Willis a 2-0 lead.

An RBI single from Willis junior Suzy Vallejo gave the Wildkats a commanding 3-0 lead and the momentum.

Haley Odell, Tiger senior first baseman, said the team didn’t lose complete faith after falling into a three run deficit so quickly, but it did affect the team’s game “a little bit.” She added the team has experienced similar scenarios during the season, but the team always stuck together and tried to get better in the next game.

“Having the three-game (playoff) series, we always came back. We stepped up our game the next game and the next,” Odell said. “But this is one-and-done. It happens.”

Wade Womack, Dripping Springs head softball coach, said nerves got the better of Miller, who struck out four batters, but walked four in 4 and 1/3rd innings pitched.

“I guess it was nerves. It was a big crowd. Perhaps one of the biggest crowds I’ll ever see … It was a fear of failure. It kind of backfired, I guess.” Kiele Miller, Tiger pitcher

Dripping Springs seniors (L-R) Kiele Miller, Haley Odell, Lexi Poehl and Sydney Campbell pose with the Conference 5A State Semi-finalist trophy. Dripping Springs’ 2017 season came to an end Friday as they fell to the Willis Wildkats in the UIL Class 5A state semifinal game at McCombs Field. Dripping Springs, which finished as state semifinalists, tied for third place in the Texas Girls Coaches Association state softball poll. (photo by Wayland D. Clark,

Willis turned to Dixon, whose curveball and rise ball kept Tiger bats off balance for the majority of the game.

Dixon, who went the full seven innings, struck out nine Tiger batters and allowed only three hits in the game. Womack said Dixon was one of the top pitchers the Tigers have seen all season.

“We’ve seen great pitching all throughout the playoffs,” Womack said. “But she’s a dang good pitcher.”

Dripping Springs fought to stay in the game by getting baserunners on-board in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Womack said the Tigers tried to bunt more often, while also trying to stay aggressive on the basepaths, which was the team’s game plan during the season.

But the Tigers were unable to generate a clutch hit to drive home a run. Dripping Springs did not have a runner reach third base during the game. The closest opportunity came and went in the fourth inning, when Tiger Camille Corona was caught stealing at third base.

Willis countered by padding its lead with a pair of runs scored in the fifth frame, highlighted by RBI doubles from Dixon and junior Mackenzie Parker.

Corona and Odell both went 1 for 2 at the plate, while Tiger third baseman Ryann Campbell went 1 for 3.

See photos from the Lady Tigers’ season here. (photos by Moses Leos III)

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