By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
The Belton Lady Tigers Softball team improved their District 12-6A record to 6-0 Thursday night in Harker Heights, as the Lady Tigers hit double-digits in scoring again with 14-0 win over the Lady Knights.
The win also extended their school-record win streak to 18, which includes six consecutive shutouts. They have outscored teams 65-0 during the shutout streak, during the last 16 games 141-7 and last 18 games 159-16. They have outscored teams this season 168-19.
Avery Drake singled, stole second and scored on the errant throw to second. Destynie Moore singled, stole second, moved to third on Kaitlyn Jones’ infield single and scored on a wild pitch. Jones stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch and Bethany Edwards’ sacrifice fly plated Jones to put Belton up 3-0.
Karla Cosme got the only hit of the night for Harker Heights in the bottom of the first on a 1-1 Sidney Holman offering. Valeria Cosme also reached base on a close fielder’s choice in the first, but was stranded there.
Belton continued its surgical offense in the second inning. With one out, Meredith Lusby singled and stole second. Drake walked and the pair moved up a base on a wild pitch. Lusby scored on a wild pitch and Moore grounded out, scoring Drake to make the score 5-0. Jones extended the inning by reaching base on an error and Edwards doubled, but were stranded on a good play in right field by Gabby Woods.
Holman struck out the side in the second inning on 11 pitches and struck out three of four hitters in the third inning.
Belton doubled their lead in the fourth inning, by sending 10 batters to the plate. Singles and stolen bases by Drake and Moore set up a two-run, push-bunt single by Jones. Edwards doubled home Jones and advanced to third on a passed ball. Kendall Mraz doubled home Edwards, Caleigh Robinson walked and Madison Ward singled home Mraz to give the Lady Tigers at 10-0 lead.
Julia Sholes was the last Lady Knight to touch a Holman pitch in the game, as she fouled out to Robinson at first base to lead off the fourth inning. Holman struck out the last five Heights’ batters on just 16 pitches, with solid heat.
Belton added to the lead in the top of the fifth inning by capitalizing on an error that put Moore on, a stolen base by Moore, a passed-ball strikeout put Jones on first and moved Moore to third and a walk to Edwards to load the bases. Sydney Andrews, pinch-hitting for Holman, singled home Moore. Baylee Leifester, pinch-hitting for Mraz, singled in Jones and Edwards. Ward singled in Andrews for the final Belton run.
The Lady Tigers picked up 15 hits and reached base on six Harker Heights’ errors, leaving nine runners on. Drake, Moore, Jones and Edwards, the top four hitters in the Lady Tigers’ batting order, combined to go 9-of-13, with 11 runs scored and 10 stolen bases.
Belton will travel back to Killeen to take on the Shoemaker Lady Grey Wolves Friday evening at 7 p.m.
Belton Softball moves up to Class 6A No. 4
The Belton Lady Tigers Softball team, in the midst of an 18-game winning streak, has gotten quite a bit of recognition on the Texas Girls Coaches Association Top 25 since the conclusion of the 2015 season.
Belton’s star has been on the rise at the state level and the team has reached another new regular season high, being lifted from the number six position into the Class 6A Top 5, at number four.
The Lady Tigers are beginning their second half of District 12-6A play this week, as they prepare for a trip to Killeen Shoemaker on Friday night.
“We are getting back into things after the bye,” Belton head coach Matt Blackburn said. “We are working on some new drills. We want to make sure we stay fresh throughout the district season. We have seen all of the district teams for the first time and now we get to see them again.”
It is no accident that Belton is ranked number four in the state. They have one of the state’s elite pitchers in Sidney Holman (18-2 in 21 games, 0.60 ERA, 210 strikeouts and 26 walks in 117 innings), one of the hottest leadoff hitters in the state in Avery Drake (.533 batting average, 30 runs, 40 hits in 75 at-bats, 21 stolen bases), one of the best catchers in the area in Bethany Edwards (.370 batting average, team-leading 6 HR’s and 23 RBI’s) and one of the area’s best offenses in general.
The team is hitting .396 at the turn of the District 12-6A schedule, having outscored opponents 169-19 in 22 games. If you remove the 4-2 start (the Bryan-College Station Tournament) from this, Belton has outscored its opponents 142-8 in the last 18 games. They provide Holman 7.68 runs of support on offense (13.5 runs per game in district alone) and with Sid allowing no runs in district play through the first pass, many in the state have stood up and have taken notice that Big Red is rising in Belton again.
It is important to not forget the defense in all of this. The team has a solid fielding percentage of .974 and Edwards throws out runners at a 40 percent rate from behind the plate. With Holman striking out 210 of the 422 batters she has faced, there is a huge piece of the defensive puzzle. Mix in the defensive exploits of Kaitlyn Jones, Meredith Lusby, Drake and Caleigh Robinson and it is an infield that a ball rarely gets by. Huge plays by Kendall Mraz, Destynie Moore, Madison Ward and Ryleigh Jarvis get overlooked often times with Holman’s stellar dealings in the circle, but the four have all come up big in the outfield for Belton.
“We are still striving for improvement against each of our six district opponents heading towards the playoffs,” Blackburn said.