By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
The TGCA Class 6A No. 12 Belton Lady Tigers made their second road trip of the week on Friday night to Killeen, as they took on Shoemaker at Lady Grey Wolves Field in a District 8-6A matchup.
From the first pitch to the final out, the Lady Tigers were in solid command in a 24-0 win in four innings.
Madison Cotton got the win, pitching two perfect innings. Taylor Tubbs also pitched two innings and allowed a hit in preserving the shutout. The tandem struck out struck out seven and walked none.
Avery Drake’s single started the night and set in motion a five-run first, highlighted by Madison Ward’s two-run single. The wind played a factor all night. The first play where that was evident was Mackenzie Bartlett’s fly ball that started in straight-away left field and tailed into the corner. It tipped off of Samo Blackwell’s glove to score Caleigh Robinson and Ward. Ryleigh Jarvis’ RBI single made the score 5-0.
Madison Bartlett, Bethany Edwards, Robinson and Ward had consecutive hits to start second inning. A walk to Meredith Lusby set up a two-run single by Mackenzie Bartlett. Jarvis’ sacrifice bunt set up a sharp single up the middle from Miranda Davila. Avery Drake singled and Madison Bartlett dropped down an RBI sacrifice bunt. Edwards followed with a triple. When the dirt settled, it was an eight-run second inning for Belton and a 13-0 lead.
In a Belton-scene reminiscent of an inning three years ago where there were heavy winds at Shoemaker and the team was deadlocked in a 1-1 tie, Belton head coach Matt Blackburn went to the small-ball game where the emphasis was on bunts and slap-hits. In 2014, that inning produced 15 runs. On Friday night, the third inning produced 11 runs. The object was to put the ball in the infield where the fielders were not. It also gave the Lady Tigers an opportunity to flex their bench, as Madison Sniggs had an RBI single and Jamecia Houston hit a two-run double off the facing of the left centerfield wall. Belton led 24-0 after three innings.
Every Lady Tiger that batted scored in the game. All but one player had at least one hit. The player that didn’t have a hit, Lusby, had three walks and an RBI.
Edwards finished the game 3-of-5, a home run short of the cycle. Davila and Madison Bartlett both went 3-of-3 and Mackenzie Bartlett went 2-of-3, driving in four runs.
“We were able to execute in all facets of the game,” Blackburn said. “When we went to the small-ball game in the third inning, the girls did a great job in finding the holes. We need to be able to go small-ball in certain situations. It is a dimension in softball that allows you go away from the power game with in certain conditions and still execute.”
The wind, no doubt, is one of those conditions. At times during the game, the gusts were up to 35 miles-per-hour.
“Shoemaker always has crazy winds and usually coming in from the South. It affected the defenses as well, especially in left field where the wind was carrying balls into corner in one inning and pushing them back towards the infield in the next inning.”
Tigers break through with three-run fifth inning in 3-2 win over Midway
The Belton Lady Tigers had March 13 circled on their calendar for a few months. It was the first of two games between Belton and Waco Midway Pantherettes.
The first installment of the 2017 edition was held Monday night at Lady Tiger Field in Belton.
The Pantherettes jumped out to an early lead before two-out single in the fifth inning by Caleigh Robinson drove in Madison Bartlett to complete a three-run frame, as Belton held on for a 3-2 win over Midway.
The Lady Tigers moved their overall record to 15-4 and 4-0 in District 8-6A for sole possession of first place.
There was plenty of fundamentally sound defense on both sides, as Meredith Lusby registered seven putouts and an assist. Midway’s Haley Brown made four solid catches in right field that were bound for trouble.
Midway scored their first run with two outs in the top of the second inning. Faith Fernandez walked and Camryn Collier singled off Belton starting pitcher Madison Cotton, setting up a lined shot off of third baseman Madison Bartlett’s glove for run-scoring single.
Aside from a Robinson walk in the second inning, a single by Avery Drake in the third inning, and a single by Robinson in the fourth inning, Midway starting pitcher Jazmine Gendorf held the powerful Belton bats in check until the bottom of the fifth inning.
A leadoff walk to Mackenzie Bartlett started the inning. She stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. With two outs, Drake walked to put runners at the corners. Madison Bartlett’s single drove home sister Mackenzie to tie the game at 1-1. Bethany Edwards’ single drove in Drake to put Belton in the lead 2-1. Robinson followed with a single to drive in Madison Bartlett. Belton small-ball was hard at work, producing three runs for the Lady Tigers.
Midway scratched out a run in the top of the sixth inning. Moore singles and Rhein Trochim walked to put runners at first and second. Sophie Wideman grounded into a fielder’s choice, which the relay throw ended up in the Midway dugout. The errant throw brought in Moore to make the score 3-2.
Belton nearly tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth inning, as Lusby singled, was sacrificed to second by Mackenzie Bartlett and moved to third on Ryleigh Jarvis’ groundout. A bounce out to Gendorf ended the inning.
Aaliyah McCullen pinch hit for Faith Fernandez and walked, putting speed on the bases. Collier sacrificed McCullen to second base and moved third on a Sami Martinez ground out. Cotton got Kadyn Trochim to ground out to Lusby at shortstop to end the game.
Cotton (11-4) pitched a complete game, allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits, walked three and struck out four in seven innings. She is the first pitcher in 19 games this season to go more than four innings in an out and is the first with a complete game. She helped strand three runners on base. Edwards caught Rhein Trochim stealing in the first inning and Martinez leaning off of first base in the second inning.
Gendorf took the loss for Midway, going six innings. She allowed three runs on seven hits, struck out four and did not walk a Belton batter. She helped strand six Lady Tigers on base, five of them in scoring position.
Robinson went 2-of-2 on the night for Belton. Five other players collected hits for the Lady Tigers.
“That is a talented, tough Midway team,” Belton head coach Matt Blackburn said. “Our girls knew what to expect coming in. We played small-ball in the fifth inning and it generated the three runs. Belton and Midway games are always exciting and are very fun to coach.”
Lady Tigers grind out three runs in fourth to shut out Central 3-0
Following an exciting 3-2 over Waco Midway on Monday night, the TGCA Class 6A No. 12 Belton Lady Tigers boarded a bus along with their junior and headed out to San Angelo to take on Central High School Tuesday afternoon.
The Lady Tigers broke open a pitcher’s dual between Belton’s Taylor Tubbs and Central’s Marisa Cruz in the top of the fourth inning, pushing across the game’s only three runs as Belton shut out the Lady Bobcats 3-0.
The win pushed Belton’s record to 16-4 overall and 5-0 in District 8-6A play. The Lady Tigers are in sole possession of first place.
Tubbs got the start in the circle for Belton and retired the first five Central batters before Tori Ontiveros’ double registered the first hit by either club to that point.
Cruz had the Lady Tigers in check through first two innings, having allowed just a walk to Caleigh Robinson in the second. Ryleigh Jarvis reached on an error in the top of third, stole second base and advanced to third on Miranda Davila’s sacrifice bunt. She was stranded on third, but it set the stage for Belton’s offense in the fourth inning.
After a great catch by Central shortstop Sydnie Gilbert of a line shot by Bethany Edwards bound for extra bases, Robinson, Madison Ward, and Meredith Lusby pieced together singles. Lusby’s base-knock drove home Robinson to make the score 1-0. After Mackenzie Bartlett’s sacrifice Bunt, Jarvis’ two-run single scored Ward and Lusby to increase the lead to 3-0.
Tubbs pitched her way out of trouble in the fifth inning. A leadoff single to Megan DiCenzo and Gilbert was hit by a pitch put runners at second and third. Tubbs induced a groundout to the shortstop Lusby and struck out Ontiveros to strande DiCenzo and Gilbert.
Belton threatened in the final three innings. In the fifth inning with two outs, as Edwards hit a line shot single into centerfield and advanced to second on an error. Robinson reached on a single, but both were stranded in the inning. In the sixth inning, Belton had a pair of runners on, but two fielder’s choices left one runner on base. In the seventh inning, Avery Drake walked and advanced to third on Madison Bartlett’s sacrifice bunt. She was stranded at third.
Hannah Kelley came on in relief of Tubbs in the sixth inning and retired the side. She ran into a jam, as Maddie Stewart and Ontiveros lined back-to-back singles to lead off the bottom of the seventh. She struck out Kaya Howell swinging, Mickayla Jones looking, and Kat Herrera swinging to end the game.
Tubbs went five innings for the win, allowed just two hits, struck out three, walked one, and hit one batter. Kelley picked up the save. She went two innings, allowed two hits and struck out three.
Jarvis went 1-of-3 with two runs batted in, Lusby singled and reached base twice. Robinson went 2-of-3, reaching base three times. The Lady Tigers left seven runners on base.
Cruz took the loss for Central, although she pitched well. She pitched seven innings, gave up three earned runs on six hits, struck out six, hit a batter, and walked one.
Ontiveros led the Lady Bobcats, going 2-of-3 on the day. Central stranded six runners in the game.
“It was an ugly win, but Central is a very good, scrappy team,” Belton head coach Matt Blackburn said. “Their pitcher (Cruz) kept us off-balance, but we were able to play small-ball and score three runs in the fourth inning.”
Although the wind was a factor in the ballgame, blowing constantly from the Southwest at 25 miles-per-hour, Blackburn noted that the team was tired from the night before and the trip out.
“The girls got some sleep last night and then boarded the bus at 6:30 this morning for a four-and-a-half-hour bus ride, and then had to sit through two JV games before they played at 3:30. They are tired, but they will be able to rest on the way home and rest up for the rest of the district schedule.”
The Lady Tigers will host Killeen Ellison on March 21 at Lady Tiger Field.