Consistency at the plate, mixed with key defensive contributions helped the Hays Rebel softball team cruise to 14-4 run-rule win in five innings Friday over the rival Lehman Lobos.
But it was the role of team leadership that provided Hays its footing, said Lisa Cone, Rebel head softball coach. That leadership proved vital as the Rebels rallied back from an early first inning deficit en route to victory.
“We can outscore a lot of folks and they know we’ve been at tournaments where we’ve been down 7-0 and have come back the next inning,” Cone said. “They know to trust their bats and not to panic. That’s because we’re not young and they know not to do it.”
Leading the charge for the Rebel offense was Brianna Rodriguez and Illyana Cisneros, who finished with nine total runs batted in (RBIs). Rodrigez went 2 for 3 with a triple, a home run and five total RBIs. Cisneros finished by going 3 for 4 with a triple and four RBIs in the game.
But the Rebels were forced to play from behind after Lehman scratched across a run in the first inning. Small ball made a difference for the Lobos, who turned a leadoff single from senior Seryna Avalos into a 1-0 lead in the top of the first inning, which was scored after a Rebel error.
Jesse Bustamante, Lehman head softball coach, said the team focuses on movement with runners on the base paths, but he said the team wasn’t able to fully execute as normal.
The pitching prowess of Rebel senior Maxine Valdez kept Lobo bats at bay. Valdez, who battled illness during the game, allowed only one hit and an earned run, while also striking out four batters in three innings of work.
Lobo morale also took a hit when Avalos left the game with an injury in the bottom of the first inning.
“The pitcher shut us down for three innings and we couldn’t get anything else going in the latter half of the game,” Bustamante said.
Hays’ offense clawed back into the lead via a two-run RBI single from Cisneros in the bottom of the first inning.
The Rebels secured the lead for good with an eight-run third inning. Twelve Rebels went to the plate in the bottom of the third with the team smashing eight hits, highlighted by RBI triples from Cisneros and Rodriguez.
Despite a 10-1 deficit, Lehman kept battling and responded with three runs scored in the top of the fourth frame. Providing support for the rally were back-to-back doubles from Gaby Peña and Ariana Ibarra, along with a double from Gabby Rodriguez.
Pena led the team by going 2 for 2 with a walk.
“It’s a good thing we’re making contact. We have to respond and chip away. We had some good things that happened, but it’s a good opportunity to learn how to compete and have that confidence to fight back.”
But Lehman’s chance to inflict more damage was undone by two key defensive plays in the latter part of the game.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth inning, Hays left fielder Madi Butler robbed Lehman’s K. Romero of an extra base hit that could have scored more runs.
In the top of the fifth frame, Cisneros threw out a runner at home plate to keep another run from scoring.
Hays put the game away with three more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, which came off of four straight hits in a row by Kaylin Davis, Rodriguez, Joedan Tovar and Cisneros.
For Bustamante, preparing his team for the rest of district play is the next step.
“Every game is going to be a dogfight and we have to learn how to win those (close games),” Bustamante said. “We don’t know how to compete and fight back for a full game.”
Cone said staying healthy is the goal as district play continues.
“I told them to keep playing like this,” Cone said. “We’re not in spring break just yet.”