Hays wins tight district contest over Vista Ridge

A 15-plus hour weather delay was worth the wait for the Hays Rebel softball team to shake its extra inning demons Saturday.

By virtue of a walk-off RBI single from sophomore Amaya Guerrero, Hays upended the Vista Ridge Rangers 9-8 in nine innings to improve its postseason positioning.

But the win provided a sense of vindication for the Rebels, who have dealt with a pair of one-run extra inning district losses this season.

“Considering the extra inning games before, where we lost, this one was really big for all of us,” said Rebel senior Illyana Cisneros. “It (the game) was fun, but we needed that.”

Lisa Cone, Hays softball head coach, said while the players understood the magnitude of Friday’s game, she believed “it was just our turn” to win a tight district contest.

The win also provided a boost for the Rebels as they approach the postseason. Hays is currently second in 25-6A and, depending on outcomes April 17, could be in a tie with Vista Ridge, potentially forcing a one-game playoff for the runner-up spot.

“It had to come and this is a great time for us to have this,” Cone said. “We’re excited to have this win.”

Obtaining the win, however, was an exercise in patience and perseverance.

Hays trailed 1-0 in the bottom of the third frame when its offense exploded for a five-run outburst.

An additional Rebel run in the fourth inning gave Hays a 6-1 advantage.

Vista Ridge bounced back with four runs in the fifth frame to cut Hays’ lead to 6-5. The Rangers then tallied three more unanswered runs to lead 8-6 heading into the final inning of regulation.

Needing a boost, Cisneros delivered by belting a two-run home run to right center field to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh.

“It gave us confidence. If we were to get behind, it’s the confidence knowing we can come back, and to help us understand that if we get ahead, to keep a lead and not get into tight situations,” Cone said.

That confidence extended into the top of the eighth inning when pitcher Maxine Valdez escaped a bases-loaded jam to keep the score tied.  Valdez struck out 16 batters over the course of nine innings and left eight Rangers stranded on base.

Valdez helped her own cause in the bottom of the ninth by smacking a lead-off single.

And then the rains came. Both teams waited until midnight Friday before storms forced a postponement. 

For Cone, the priority Saturday centered on trying to reignite the spark at the plate, despite the delay. Pitching “live” to the batters, which meant using real softballs and not softer practice balls, helped to regain the team’s timing before the game restarted.

Cisneros said it was difficult for her to “get back in the groove,” but felt confident in the team’s abilities.

“One of my concerns was how do we get back in that rhythm we were in,” Cone said. “I had to do that because we were starting in an important situation. I tried to get them as warmed up as best I could.”

Two hours of pregame preparation helped the Rebels claim victory in less than 20 minutes. Guerrero said she fouled off several pitches to the outside of the plate, which led to her believe she was going to get something on the inside portion.

“Right when I hit that, I was so happy, I was crying a little bit,” Guerrero said.

Armed with the experience, Hays now prepares to discover its playoff fate. Even amid the uncertainty, Cisneros said she is “confident in our sticks,” and that the team can excel in the playoffs.

“This gives us a big momentum booster,” Guerrero said. “I’ve never had that exciting of a hit. It was great.”

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