Six unanswered Austin Maroons runs tallied in the final five frames Tuesday spoiled the Hays Rebel softball team’s home opener in a 6-1 loss.
Austin’s ability to exact damage with limited outs played a primary role in Rebel struggles. All six Maroon runs were scored with two outs in a frame.
Inexperience in handling high pressure situations was Hays’ downfall, an issue that allowed Austin to extend innings, Rebel head coach Lisa Cone said.
“We have a lot of people new to varsity. It’s understanding it’s a different game. It’s a lot more pressure,” Cone said. “We have to learn how to adjust to that. That has something to do with it.”
Hays (9-5, 2-2) captured a 1-0 lead after two innings via a solo home run from catcher Annaliese Rodriguez.
However, Austin began its comeback by tallying a run in the third and fourth frames to take a 2-1 lead. The Maroons maintained momentum in the fifth frame when a two-out single allowed Jayda Lafleur to have an unexpected at-bat. Lafleur capitalized with a two-run home run, giving the Maroons a 4-1 lead.
Lexie Aleman padded the Maroons’ lead with a two-run home run to left center field in the seventh inning, giving Austin a 6-1 advantage. All told, Austin High tallied eight hits off of Rebel pitcher Katie Noble, who finished with six strikeouts in seven innings of work.
While Austin’s offense thrived, Rebel bats couldn’t find their rhythm. Hays scatted only five total hits against a trio of Maroon pitchers, who combined stranded seven Rebels on base.
Cone said while coaches tried to motivate players into a groove at the plate, the team never found its footing. Adjusting to Austin’s multiple pitching changes might have played a partial role in the team’s offensive woes, Cone said.
“This is not like us. We weren’t ourselves tonight,” Cone said. “We typically get in a groove quicker than that. We definitely know what we have to work on.”
The absence of Rebel sophomore Megan Kelnar, who suffered a season-ending leg injury against Bowie March 3, is a void Hays still hasn’t been able to fill.
Heading into Tuesday’s game, Kelnar had notched a team-leading 18 RBIs from the leadoff spot.
“It’s quite the adjustment. Megan led by example. The way she works and talks,” Cone said. “It’s an adjustment and we’re going to make the adjustment, but it’s going to take us a little bit to try to mesh again and get in that rhythm.”
Building confidence at the plate will be Cone’s goal as they prepare for the meat of district play in the coming weeks. Getting a chance to field a full practice without a disruption from the elements is also something she hopes for.
“It’s one of those things where they need to see lots of pitches. That’s how you build confidence,” Cone said. “But the weather has kept us from being able to do that on a regular basis, like we used to.
Hays takes on crosstown rival Lehman Friday at 6 p.m. The Rebels return home to play Westlake Monday at 12:30 p.m.