A career-high 17 strikeouts from starting pitcher Maxine Valdez was the catalyst for the Hays Rebels’ 1-0 win over the rival Lehman Lobos Friday at Lehman High.
“I think I came out strong tonight,” Valdez said. “My rise ball was better than it was before and I threw a couple of curves in there that they hadn’t seen.”
Along with the 17 strikeouts, Valdez finished by allowing only six Lobo hitters to reach base. Lehman was able to get three hits off of Valdez, while also reaching base due to a defensive error and two hit batters. Other than those pitching hiccups, Valdez remained composed and focused to keep the Lehman batters guessing which pitch she would throw next.
“She did a great job,” Hays head coach Lisa Cone said. “I can’t ask for any more, she does her part. She does what is expected of her. You know I want us to have more run support so it takes a little pressure off of us defensively. But Maxine does a great job on the mound, she doesn’t seem to get too stressed so that’s a good thing.”
The lone run in the ball game came in the top of the first inning when Hays’ Illyana Cisneros belted an RBI single to center field, which scored Rebel baserunner Brianna Rodriguez.
On the opposite end, Lehman starting pitcher Lexi Bechtel stifled Rebel bats by conceding only seven hits and an earned run in a complete game effort. Bechtel only struck out one Hays batter on the night, but she was consistent at keeping Rebel hitters in check when they had runners on base and in scoring position.
“I told them that we aren’t going to get any breaks,” said Cone. “They are going to play their best game. Expect a tough fight and that’s what it was. They played a great game and you know, thank goodness we scored the one run at the beginning of the game.”
After having two one-run losses this season in district play to Lake Travis, Cone wanted to see her team finish a tough game like this on the road in front of a packed crowd.
“This is the first one run ball game that we’ve won maybe this season,” Cone said. “And that was a big deal for us, to win that close a ball game. That’s a big deal and I’m proud of them for that.”
Hays currently sits in third place in District 25-6A standings with a 6-3 record, and only trails Vista Ridge and Lake Travis for first place.
Lehman holds fifth place at 3-6 in district play and is fighting to move ahead of Leander for the final playoff spot.
Hays hosts Vista Ridge April 12 at 7:00 p.m. in a game that will determine playoff seeding. Lehman travels to Westlake Friday, followed by a key home game against Leander April 20.