By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
Lady Tiger Field was in pristine condition and the stands were packed just in time for Thursday night’s Class 6A Bi-District, one-game playoff between the Garland Lady Owls and the No. 2-ranked Belton Lady Tigers.
Belton hammered Garland for 11 first-inning runs, eight second-inning runs and a third-inning run before lightning and two hailstorms chased the teams and the packed house from the complex with the Lady Tigers leading Garland 20-0 after three-and-a-half innings.
Two-and-a-half hours after the completion of the top of the fourth inning, the field was a messy sight.
Per mutual agreement of Belton head coach Matt Blackburn and Garland head coach Jennifer Sisson by way of a statement from the director of the Texas University Interscholastic League, the game was ruled complete due to safety and weather conditions.
The win earned the Lady Tigers the Bi-District Championship and will play Mesquite as they swept their playoff series. Mesquite took game one 12-2 and 12-7 in game two over Irving.
Sidney Holman was on point early, inducing a pair of grounders back to the circle sandwiched around a fly out to Avery Drake at second base.
The Lady Tigers struck early in the first. Drake and Destynie Moore singled to start the bottom of the first. Both scored on a single by Kaitlyn Jones. Bethany Edwards doubled to bring home Jones and Holman doubled to score Edwards to make the score 4-0. Kendall Mraz drew a walk and with one out, Madison Ward walked to load the bases. Meredith Lusby walked to force home courtesy runner Sydney Andrews to make the score 5-0. After an infield fly rule out for the second out, Moore singled home Mraz and Ward, forcing Sisson to lift starting pitcher Alexis Leflore for reliever Sierra Stone. Jones walked and Edwards doubled home Lusby and Moore to make the score 9-0. An errant pickoff throw by catcher Lindsae Walker scored Jones from third base. Holman’s triple scored Edwards, as 15 Lady Tigers batted around in the first stanza.
Garland’s lone threat of the ball game came in the second inning. Stone singled and stole second and Alesah Porres single moved Stone to third base. Porras took second during Katie Aguilar’s at-bat. Aguilar grounded to shortstop Lusby, who took quick looks at second and third before rifling a throw to Robinson at first base to get Aguilar. The looks held the Lady Owls on their bases and Holman struck out Angelli Cano to get Belton out of trouble.
Belton’s plate discipline was on display in the bottom of the second inning. Robinson, Ward and Lusby walked to start the inning, all three behind in the counts at the plate before working walks. Sisson reinserted Leflore into the circle and quickly induced Drake into a fielder’s choice, where Robinson was forced out at the plate for the first out. Moore walked, forcing in Ward to make the score 12-0. Jones hit a shot to the left-centerfield gap, clearing the bases to put Belton up 15-0. Edwards’ single scored Jones and moved up to second on an error. Holman walked and Andrews came on to courtesy run. Edwards scored during Mraz’s at-bat, which resulted in a walk. On a 1-0 pitch, the left-handed Robinson hit a liner that caromed off the right field scoreboard for a two-run homer to make the score 19-0.
Holman picked up two strikeouts in retiring the Lady Owls in order in the top of the third, bring Belton back to the plate for the bottom of the third inning. Drake’s speed help manufacture the Lady Tigers’ 20th run, as she reached on an error, stole her 34th base of the season, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a wild pitch.
Leflore reached base on a two-out walk in the top of the fourth before Holman struck out Porras to retire the side.
When the Lady Tigers left the field to end the top of the fourth inning, Sisson, Blackburn and the umpires discussed the impending weather situation, as the beautiful day turned an ugly start to the evening. A lightning strike within five miles of the field at around 8:10 p.m. evacuated the teams and the fans from the field. Two thunderstorms containing hail hit the area at 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. The second storm knocked power out at the Belton Multipurpose Complex and was dark for about 10 minutes before power was restored to the area.
The delay was two-and-a-half hours in before the complete-game agreement of Blackburn and Sisson by way of the UIL director Susan Elsa. The decision was confirmed Friday morning.
Jones had five runs batted in, Edwards knocked in four and Moore drove in three. Drake’s hit gave her 54 for the season, two away from the school record of 56 for a single season.
Holman pitched four innings, allowing two hits, walking one and striking out six. She is sitting at 294 strikeouts and moved her record to 25-2 on the year, driving her earned run average down to 0.46.
The win moved Belton’s record to 27-2, extending its school-record winning streak to 25 games and earned Blackburn his 200th win in nine years at Belton. His career record at the school is 200-102 since taking over the team in 2008.