An 11-run, three-inning spree Tuesday catapulted the Hays Rebels softball team to a 12-1 win over the rival Lehman Lobos, essentially locking up a playoff berth.
With a district title now in their sights, Hays Rebel freshman Katie Noble said maintaining momentum during the team’s eight-game win streak is essential down the stretch.
“Going into the next three games we have left, it’s going to be huge for us to have that confidence,” Noble said.
Plate adjustments in the latter innings was a key to success for the Rebel offense, which scattered 15 total hits on Lobo pitching. Highlighting the effort was an explosive seventh frame where the Rebels (19-4, 12-1) notched seven runs on nine extra-base hits. Hays scored 11 of its 12 total runs in the final three innings of the game.
Lisa Cone, Hays head coach, said it took at least one cycle through the lineup for Rebel batters to adjust to Lobo pitcher Lexi Bechtel, whose velocity differed from what they faced against Austin High Friday. Noble, who went 2 for 5 with two triples and two RBIs, said staying patient and waiting on the ball paid dividends.
“That’s the hard part. Some teams will have faster pitching, while others we’ll see will have a slower speed,” Cone said. “That will help us in the playoffs, as long as we make that adjustment.”
Early on, Hays struggled to decipher Bechtel, who stranded four Rebel base
-runners in the first three frames. Small ball helped Hays take an early 1-0 lead in the second inning, which was capped off by an RBI single from Kaylin Davis.
Lehman (22-8, 6-7) responded right back in the third inning when Ari Ybarra drove in a run on a sacrifice ground ball, tying the score at 1-1.
Robert Young, Lobo head coach, said despite some early miscues, Lehman battled to stay in contention for the first three frames. Struggles to capitalize when they had runners in scoring position, however, hurt the Lobos.
“We needed to string more hits and get the first one (batter) on,” Young said. “We couldn’t capitalize on it. Sometimes that’s the nature of the game.”
Meanwhile, Rebel pitcher Max Valdez, who struck out nine in a complete game, one-hit effort, found her groove to keep Lobo batters at bay. After conceding the third-inning run, Valdez didn’t allow another baserunner to reach base over the course of the final four frames.
“Once we started to get our bats going, I felt a little more relaxed,” Valdez said. “Not so much stress on me.”
Despite the loss, Lehman still has eyes on a possible playoff berth. Young said winning two of their final three contests could place the Lobos in “great position.” It starts with a road contest against Anderson Friday.
“We’re not waiting for someone to do our job for us,” Young said. “We have to take care of business.”
Hays must keep pace with Austin High to claim at least a share of the district title.
“It’s great. It’s always great,” Valdez said. “It’s my senior year and I want nothing more.”
Hays hosts Westlake Friday, then closes the regular season at home against Del Valle April 18. Lehman hosts Bowie April 16 for senior night and then closes the regular season at Akins April 18. All games at 7 p.m.