By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
It was the night that the Belton Lady Tigers circled on their calendars since the schedule was published in December. It was another classic, down-to-the-wire finish between the Belton Lady Tigers and the Waco Midway Pantherettes.
The Tigers blinked and the Panthers stole away from Belton with the title.
Belton fought back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits with a run in the fifth inning and two runs in the sixth, before a pair of misplays in the top of the ninth inning led to a pair of Midway runs. The Pantherettes won the outright District 12-6A title with a 5-3, nine-inning win at Lady Tiger Field Monday night.
The teams were scoreless until the top of the third inning, as speedy Rhein Trochim reached on an infield single and score on Haley Moore’s double to make the score 1-0.
The Lady Tigers (15-5, 9-2 District 12-6A) had troubles trying to solve the mystery of Midway starter Morgan Ling in the circle, as Kaitlyn Jones was the only runner to reach base inside the first four innings.
Macey Mize hit a fly ball to the right-centerfield gap to start the fifth inning, when Bekah Alcozer attempted to catch on the run. The ball tipped her glove and Mize ended up at second base. Mize scored on an infield single by Trochim to make the score 2-0.
Belton starting pitcher Sidney Holman helped herself out by singling with two outs in the fifth inning, breaking up Ling’s no-hit bid. Hitt was hit by a pitch and Andrews singled in courtesy runner Ryleigh Jarvis to make the score 2-1.
Midway (Class 6A No. 16, 18-2, 11-0 District 12-6A) regained a two-run advantage in the top of the sixth inning. Taylor Ellis singled past a diving Jones and then ended up on third when the rolling ball got under Alcozer’s legs. Bethany Edwards made a huge defensive play charging forward to tag out Taylor Mordecai on a ground ball to first base, keeping Ellis at third. Ellis scored a sacrifice bunt by Sophie Wideman in which she got a lightning quick start to make the score 3-1.
Belton scratched out two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie the ballgame. Destynie Moore walked and Jones bunted straight at Wideman, who bobbled the roller. Moore came around to score and Edwards RBI groundout tied the game at 3-3.
After a Midway 1-2-3 inning, Holman hit a deep, towering fly to the high part of the batter’s eye fence in centerfield. The ball hit high off the wall, missing leaving the park by six inches and ended up sliding into second head-first, beating the relay throw to Ellis at second base. Jarvis came into ball game once again to run for Holman and advanced to third base on Hitt’s sacrifice bunt. But a pair of strikeouts stranded Jarvis 60 feet away and the game went into extra innings.
Midway threatened in the top of the eighth inning when Mordecai doubled off of the wall and Wideman singled to put runners at the corners. On the first pitch of Chandlar Coskrey’s at-bat, Wideman broke for second to start a double-steal attempt. Hitt launched a seed to Lusby at second, not getting Wideman. Lusby returned fire back down to Hitt to get Mordecai attempting to steal home by a step and got the Lady Tigers out of the inning unscathed.
Jones reached first on a Wideman error in the bottom of the eight, but could not advance.
In the top of the ninth, Coskrey hit a ball that hard-hopped off Lusby’s chest and she ended up on first. Mize doubled into the left-centerfield gap, moving Coskrey to third base. Pinch hitter Michaela Clark walked to load the bases with no one out and the Lady Tigers’ backs were against the proverbial wall. Ling struck out for the first out and a great play Jones playing in even with the pitching rubber forced out Coskrey at the plate for the second out. With the infield playing at normal depth, Haley Moore hit a full-count shot to the shortstop Lusby. Instead of a routine throw to first base with two outs, she opted a late throw home that pulled Hitt off the plate. The throw allowed courtesy runner Aaliyah McCullen to score and Midway took a 4-3 lead. The next batter, Ellis, hit a dribbler in front of the plate to score Clark on the next play to make the score 5-3.
“Physical errors and mental errors,” Belton head coach Matt Blackburn said. “It’s one of those situations we have been in since February and you get exposed a little when they do happen. Midway has one of the best offenses that I’ve seen from them. They are very aggressive with the bat.”
Belton was retired in order in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Pantherettes poured out of the dugout to celebrate their district title win.
Holman threw nine innings, surrendering three earned runs, scattering nine hits, striking out four and walking just one in the ninth inning. Holman also picked up two hits and Sydney Andrews had the other base hit in the fifth inning.
Much in the way of the loss to Midway in Hewitt on March 24, Belton struggled to get the leadoff batter of innings on base. At Pantherette Field, the Lady Tigers did not board a leadoff hitter. Monday night, Belton was boarded two leadoff hitters in nine innings.
Comparitively speaking, Midway was three-of-six in leadoff runners boarding on March 24 and was four-of-nine Monday night.
Ling threw six innings, giving up three runs on two hits. Coskrey came on in relief and shut out the Lady Tigers over the final three innings to pick up the win.
“It was a disappointing game to lose,” Blackburn said. “Midway is a good squad.”
The Lady Tigers’ finish the district season against Harker Heights on Tuesday.
Belton 11 Harker Heights 0, six innings
The Belton Lady Tigers sought to recover from their nine-inning, heartbreaking loss to Waco Midway on Monday night by playing Harker Heights Tuesday evening in the final District 12-6A game of the season.
Belton scored in each inning en route to an 11-0, six-inning win over the Lady Knights. The win wrapped up second place in District 12-6A with a 10-2 record and 16-5 overall with two games left in the non-district schedule.
The Lady Tigers’ three-run first inning was highlighted by Bekah Alcozer’s sixth homer of the season to right-centerfield. Belton scored one run in the second inning, third inning, two runs in the fourth inning, one in the fifth inning and three in the sixth inning.
Holman struck out 12 Lady Knights, while giving up a hit to Heights’ starting pitcher Sierra Warren and speedy rightfielder Jalynn Everett. She walked just one on the night.
“Her goal was no walks on the evening,” Belton head coach Matt Blackburn said, “She walked just one, so she did well again tonight.”
Alcozer had a homer and a double, as well as Sydney Andrews and Bethany Edwards both going 3-of-4. Brittany Bass scored three runs, Alcozer, Edwards and Andrews each scored two runs.
“The girls practiced hitting to the opposite field tonight and it worked,” Blackburn said. “It was good to see Alcozer hit well tonight and other girls that have not been hitting well of late hitting again.”
The Lady Tigers travel Midlothian on Friday night and Hutto on Monday to close out the season. KTEM-AM 1400 and KTEMNews.com will carry the Hutto game starting at 5:50 p.m. Monday evening.