Tag: Softball

2018-19 IN REVIEW: Softball (w/ two photo galleries)

Prior to the release of our All-Big Country Preps softball and baseball teams on Friday and Saturday, Evan Ren and Daniel Youngblood will review the 2018-19 school year throughout this week and the top athletic stories produced by the area in football, boys and girls basketball, baseball and softball.

I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for fastpitch softball — I admit it. 

A long time ago, it was common for men to play the game. My dad played it. I played it. So I still thoroughly enjoy getting to as many girls softball games as possible — just to see some fastpitch again.

So, it is with pleasure that I review the the 2019 season — the top teams, the top games, the top surprises and the clubs that are about to make a splash in 2020.

 That said, it’s time to dive in.

Continue reading “2018-19 IN REVIEW: Softball (w/ two photo galleries)”

EVAN REN: A quick look at what Brock’s Lady Eagles will face in Austin

There is no such thing as an easy draw in the state softball tournament, so when you speak about degrees of difficulty, it’s important to realize that everything is relative at this stage.

That said, the Brock Lady Eagles have an extremely difficult road in front of them in their fourth straight visit to Austin (even by state tourney standards), with third-ranked Emory Rains (33-1) in a Wednesday semifinal matchup and either top-ranked Halletsville (36-1) or No. 5 Danbury (29-5) awaiting them if they reach Thursday’s championship game.  

Rankings aside, Brock might be leading things off with the toughest team in the 3A field. And I’ll give you two good reasons for it. 

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FEATURE: Can Brock’s Lady Eagles hit their way to a state title?

If the old saying that pitching and defense win championships is true, then perhaps its premature to give too much attention to the offensive performance of the Brock softball team. 

Then again, there is another adage that for every rule, there is an exception. And with the current numbers being posted by Brock (31-6), one may be tempted to believe that offensive production alone could push the Lady Eagles all the way to the end of the state bracket. 

Skeptical? Try these stats on for size. 

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GAME STORY: Wylie’s remarkable postseason run stops at a loaded Colony (w/ box score and photo gallery)

GRAFORD — The longer a playoff run continues, the higher the likelihood of running into a softball team that is “loaded.” 

 The remarkable postseason journey of the 2019 Wylie Lady Bulldogs (19-17) closed on that note, falling in a two-game regional semifinal sweep to sixth-ranked Lewisville The Colony — capped with a 12-5 loss in Game 2 on Friday at Graford. 

The loss closed the books on a Wylie campaign that saw the Lady Bulldogs push to within one round of the regional championship series in their first-ever season at the 5A level. 

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FEATURE: Ellett finishing the way she started — challenging hitters

Hard curveballs and hard riseballs — most of which are up in the zone, perilously close to a hitter’s wheelhouse.

For much of her high school career, Brownwood ace Chyanne Ellett has lived in that danger zone, matching power against power, thrown at an elevation where hitters tend to like it most. 

In short, she’s good enough to do it — with velocity in the mid-60s, good movement and a knee-buckling changeup, just to keep everyone honest. 

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FEATURE Gorman’s Guthery: Being 25-0 feels ‘awkward’ (photos courtesy of Jennifer Overstreet)

Caitlyn Clark has pitched through tendinitis this season.

Nick Guthery had to talk girls into playing softball when he became the Gorman coach in 2011. Nine years later, his Lady Panthers are 25-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state entering the Class 1A regional semifinals.

“I have to admit. It feels a little awkward,” Guthery said after Gorman, No. 1 in Class 1A in the Texas Girls Coaches Association poll, beat No. 5 Perrin-Whitt 6-1 in Thursday’s regional quarterfinals. “We’ve been undefeated in district before, but we’ve never been this far along and not lost a game.

“We don’t see ourselves as undefeated. We just play it a game at a time and move on to the next one. Most people think I should be pumped up about being undefeated. And I am, but we don’t dwell on it because we know we can be beaten on any day.”

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Big Country Preps Player of the Week: Haskell’s Rodriguez goes yard four times to take award

Back in the old days, Atlanta’s Fulton County Stadium, home of the Atlanta Braves until the late 1990s, was commonly referred to as “The Launching Pad.”  

I submit to you that since that facility was demoed in 1997, the nickname is now free game and applicable wherever we may choose to use it. 

I choose to apply it to Hermleigh’s beautiful, but not exactly pitcher-friendly softball complex, where our Big Country Preps Player of the Week, Haskell’s Ryanna Rodriguez, put on such a dazzling hitting display. So dazzling that she even eclipsed a no-hitter for our top spot. 

Keep in mind, Rodriguez hadn’t homered all season prior to last week’s area-round series with Winters. But with a strong wind blowing to left-center at The Launching Pad, Rodriguez was transformed into Hank Aaron. 

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GAME STORY: Eastland girls rebound to eliminate Peaster (w/ video, box scores; photo gallery to come late tonight)

GLEN ROSE — A day removed from an 8-3 beating at the hands of Peaster in Game 1 of a Region I-3A area-round series, the Eastland Lady Mavericks were faced with two options on Saturday: either find away to stage a remarkable turnaround or begin their offseason in early May. 

Somehow, EHS managed the former — not once, but twice in a sweep of Games 2 and 3 on Saturday at Glen Rose High School. 

Brynna Foster tossed a total of 17 innings and earned two complete-game victories to lead the Lady Mavs, who topped Peaster 2-1 in 10 innings to tie the series and 3-2 in Game 3 to end it. 

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GAME STORY: Maidens take Game 1 from Winters (two videos, box score and photo gallery w/34 images included)

HERMLEIGH — With a steady, strong wind blowing out directly to center, the stage was set for offensive fireworks in Wednesday’s Class 2A area round game at Hermleigh High School’s softball field.

Haskell and Winters delivered it in a 17-7 win for the Maidens. 

Ryanna Rodriguez was 4 for 4 with three home runs and seven RBIs and Lauren Alexander was 4 for 5 with two homers, a double and three RBIs to lead Haskell (22-8-1), which can wrap up the best-of-three series with a win in Game 2 at 5 p.m. Friday in Hermleigh. 

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FEATURE: Coahoma sophomore Overton counting her blessings

Photo courtesy of John Overton

With a 10-2 record, a 2.76 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 81 innings, Coahoma sophomore Makynlee Overton may not give the appearance of someone who is lucky to be standing in the pitcher’s circle. 

The 15-year-old has been at the forefront of a Coahoma surge to the Class 3A area round, with one solid pitching performance after another. Yet she is only a few months removed from a pair of surgeries that doctors believed would force her to miss the entire 2019 season. 

Nonetheless, she will be at centerstage when the Bulldogettes (17-5) take on Henrietta (20-10-1) in Game 1 of a best-of-three series at 6 p.m. Friday at Abilene Christian University’s Wells Field. 

It has Overton, her family, her doctors and her coaches not only marveling at the teen’s determination, but at her recuperative powers as well. 

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EVAN REN: With area softball teams at the starting gate, Big Ev makes his picks

I can’t help but compare a playoff bracket to a horse race, with the bi-district round serving as the starting gate. 

There are favorites, there are possible surprises and there are longshots. And in the end, picking who has the best chance of hitting the finish line at the state tournament is part knowledge and part luck — mostly luck.

 At this track, I’m restricted to making Big Country choices — the area teams I believe have the best chance of getting to McCombs Field at the University of Texas in Austin from May 29-June 1. 

Will a Big Country team have a shot when we get to the home stretch? We shall see. 

Here’s my picks for the 2019 softball playoff run: 

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FEATURE: Stamford’s Gutierrez a legitimate star in the making

STAMFORD — Some people know, the instant they pick up a softball and try to throw it underhand, that they can be good at it.  And those watching with a keen eye for talent recognize it at the exact same time.

In fastpitch parlance, they are what is known as a natural — someone who can perform this difficult task as though it were an afterthought. 

The Big Country is currently being introduced to one of these rarities in Stamford freshman Citlaly Gutierrez, with results that are making area coaches shake their heads in disbelief. 

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GAME STORY: Wylie softball outlasts Cooper to claim District 4-5A title

The Wylie softball team exploded for nine runs over the final three innings Friday to rally past Cooper 12-6 and claim the District 4-5A championship over their new crosstown rival at Cougar Diamond.

The Lady Bulldogs trailed 4-2 after three innings and were locked in a 5-all tie through five frames, but a three-run sixth and four-run seventh turned what had been a thrilling back-and-forth affair to that point into a comfortable victory in the winner-take-all district finale.

The victory capped a seven-game district winning streak for Wylie, which wrapped up its regular season 13-14 overall and 7-1 in 4-5A play. Cooper, meanwhile, enters the playoffs at 13-16-2 after posting a 6-2 district record.

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GAME STORY: Stamford, Gutierrez, edge Haskell 2-1 to complete district sweep (box score included, photo gallery to come late tonight)

STAMFORD — Entering Thursday’s District 7-2A matchup at Stamford, Haskell coach Eric Simmons knew that his team no margin for error. 

Facing Stamford freshman sensation Citlaly Gutierrez (24-0-1) who had already struck out more than 300 hitters on the season, the Maidens had to be nearly perfect. 

They fell just short, losing 2-1 in a well-pitched, well-played game by both teams. 

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FEATURE: Eastland’s Foster maturing into quality pitcher

EASTLAND — Two years ago as a varsity greenhorn, Eastland pitcher Brynna Foster had a lot of learning to do. 

She had the raw talent to pitch. But her velocity and movement had yet to develop fully. Her changeup came on predictable counts, and as a freshman, she still lacked the poise that only maturity can bring. 

Yet she was still effective enough to help the Lady Mavericks into postseason play, despite her youthful shortcomings. 

Two years later, with improved velocity, and a rise, curve, screwball, drop and changeup that she can deliver on any count, Foster is not only dramatically better, but she’s currently one of the top pitchers in the entire Big Country. 

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GAME STORY: Eastland escapes Comanche sweep (box score and photo gallery w/38 images included)

COMANCHE — For four full innings, the Comanche Maidens looked poised to piece together a season sweep of ninth-ranked Eastland on Tuesday, leading the Lady Mavericks 2-0 heading into the fifth. 

It didn’t happen. 

Plagued by a series of fielding miscues down the stretch, Comanche saw Eastland take the lead for good with three unearned runs over the fifth and sixth frames and escape CHS with a 4-2 win. 

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GAME STORY: Big Spring edges Sweetwater in twice-interrupted thriller (photo gallery to come late tonight)

SWEETWATER — Through 3½ hours, two lightning delays and five jams that saw runners in scoring position, Big Spring right-hander Maddie Daniels somehow managed the outward appearance of being calm in Friday’s game at Sweetwater. 

That was for the benefit of her teammates. 

On the inside, she was anything but relaxed as she battled through a marathon 4-3 win over their District 5-4A rival. 

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FEATURE: Clyde’s commitment to excellence paying off

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” — Vincent T. Lombardi 

CLYDE — When he took over a successful softball program at Clyde three years ago, coach Reagan Sewell had to find a way to elevate something that was already quite good, without falling into the trap of fixing something that wasn’t broken.

He may have found a way, in a simple motto: Be legendary.

Simply put, Sewell wanted a motivational tool that would lead the Lady Bulldogs toward an absolute commitment to excellence and an unwillingness to settle for anything else. 

Apparently, it stuck. Because over Sewell’s three-year tenure at CHS, you would be hard-pressed to find a more successful Class 3A program in the Big Country. 

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FEATURE: Abilene High ace Washington, catcher Lopez a winning combination

Kaylen Washington’s success in the circle this season has been well documented during the Abilene High softball team’s historic run to its current 19-1-2 record.

The senior right-hander’s emergence as a true and legitimate ace has been the chief storyline in the Lady Eagles’ rise to No. 3 in the Texas Girls Coaches Association statewide softball rankings.

But while many have rightly credited Washington and her ability to consistently shut down opposing lineups, the pitcher herself shifts a surprising amount of the credit for that ability to another, less heralded player — her battery mate, Hannah Lopez.

The relationship between a pitcher and catcher is one of the most unique in all of sports, and both Washington and Lopez attribute the success they’ve shared — both individually and as part of a successful team — to the trust they’ve built the last two years.

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GAME STORY: De Leon holds on to beat Goldthwaite

DE LEON — One inning made all the difference.  A shot in the arm for De Leon. A disaster for Goldthwaite. 

A seven-run second inning eruption pushed DHS to an important 8-6 win over the visiting Lady Eagles on Tuesday, giving De Leon (17-4, 6-1) a one-game lead over Goldthwaite (8-7, 5-2) for first place in District 9-2A.  

Micaela Miller and Coral Sparger both had two hits and two RBIs and Kylea De La Torre was 3 for 4 with a double and a triple to lead De Leon, which built and early 7-1 lead before holding on for the win. 

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GAME STORY: Clyde girls solidify district lead with crucial win over C-City

CLYDE — It took the better part of six innings and some late Colorado City miscues, but the Clyde Lady Bulldogs cemented their status as the team to beat in District 5-3A with an 8-0 win on Tuesday. 

Kaitlyn Turner tossed a five-hit shutout with eight strikeouts and Peyton Lee was 2-for-4 with two runs scored to lead Clyde 16-4, 5-0, which took sole possession of first place with the win. 

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