Where most pitchers might wilt under pressure in the clutch, Lehman Lobo senior pitcher Lexi Bechtel thrives on it.
So when the Austin Maroons loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh frame and had a batter reach a full count, Bechtel didn’t flinch as she notched a game-ending strikeout to secure a 3-2 district opening Lobo win.
For Bechtel, such a moment is what she practically lives for.
“Full count, bases loaded. That’s where I want to be,” Bechtel said. “I knew this was it, I had one pitch and I had to make it count.”
Bechtel, who struck out four in a complete game effort, limited an effective Austin High offense to only a two-run fourth inning outburst. Despite scattering eight hits, Bechtel kept the Maroon offense at bay, stranding seven Austin High baserunners.
Lobo head coach Robert Young said Bechtel’s effort, primarily in the final frame, showcased her growth in the circle.
“She’s grown up so much. I’m proud of where she’s at,” Young said. “I said, ‘It’s good to be where you’re at, but there’s a lot of games to played.’”
Meanwhile, Lehman’s offense gave Bechtel a cushion via a crucial three-run third frame. Back-to-back-to-back RBI singles from Bechtel, Kenna Weisenberger and Isabell Harrington gave the Lobos a 3-0 lead.
Bechtel said the key was adjusting to Maroon pitchers and avoiding overswinging. Making those adjustments and not staying in their “routine” helped the Lobos to string together base hits, Young said.
“They finally thought about it and they got up there and made the adjustment,” Young said. “When you string hits together, that’s part of the ball game.”
But Austin countered in the ensuing half inning with a two-run home run to cut the Lobo lead to 3-2.
Enter Lehman’s defense which prevented Austin from tying or taking the lead in the final three innings. That included a pair of line drive snags from shortstop Ariana Ybarra and plays from second baseman Marissa Espinoza.
“The ball had eyes and it came right to us,” Young said. “They (Austin High) hit the ball well, but they hit it right to somebody.”
For Bechtel, Monday’s win was a step toward their goal of overcoming the doubters, as well as those who still see the Lobos as the underdogs. Having a tight knit group is helping toward that cause, Bechtel said.
“It’s big for us to get that first win and we’re going to build off of that and get better,” Bechtel said.
Lehman hosts its annual tournament Feb. 27-29 at Kyle’s Blackstar Softball complex. The Lobos return home March 13 when they host rival Hays at 6 p.m.