By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
16 combined varsity seasons. 322 runs. 391 hits. 108 multi-hit games. 38 home runs. 296 runs batted in. 69 multi-RBI games. A combined 189-of-443 with runners in scoring position. A .427 batting average with runners in scoring position.
That’s the definition of production collectively before Midway’s game of the Belton Lady Tigers’ senior class of 2015.
Bekah Alcozer, Brittany Bass, Shelby Hitt and Skylar Stewart have been stalwarts in Belton head coach Matt Blackburn’s lineup for the past four seasons.
Alcozer, committed to play for coach Connie Clark’s University of Texas Lady Longhorns’ softball team, is a four-year starter, who has been a powerful force for the Lady Tigers since making the varsity team in 2012. Going into Monday night’s game with Midway, Alcozer had a career average of .437 with 18 home runs and 100 runs batted in. She has 29 multi-hit games and 25 multi-RBI games to her credit. She has hit a scary .500 (58-of-116) with runners in scoring position over her career.
“She was a stellar hitter her freshman year (2012),” Belton head coach Matt Blackburn said. “By the numbers, it was her second-best offensive season. Seeing her develop defensively has been fun. I never would have thought during her freshman and sophomore seasons as a designated player that she would jump into the role of a starting centerfielder her senior season. She is one of the fastest players I have ever coached, especially for her size and her strength. I never would have guessed she would play centerfield. She asked me to give her a chance in the spring and she made good, solid plays in the scrimmages and I left her there. She commands the outfield and that’s the role you want a senior leader to play.”
Bass started off as a catcher and outfielder for the Lady Tigers before taking on the role as the team’s third baseman late in her sophomore season, when longtime Lady Tiger and current Temple College shortstop/third baseman Alex Wilson converted to shortstop after an injury to Meredith Langford in the pair’s senior season. Bass played her 100th career game against Ellison last week, hitting .374 for her career, three home runs, 47 runs batted in, 20 multi-hit games and five three-RBI games. She has hit .419 (39-of-93) with runners in scoring position.
“She is solid kid over there at third base,” Blackburn said. “She’s able to play as deep as she wants at third. Between her and (Sidney) Holman, I can’t think of a time this year that she has lost out on a bunt with the bunt coverage we have now. She’s speedy for a third baseman. She does a good job getting a glove on the ball.”
Bass is a switch-hitter, who hit primarily right-handed in 2014, but made the switch to being primarily left-handed following a tough stretch at the Bryan-College Station Tournament to open the season.
“On the bus ride home from Bryan, I told her that she’s going to go back to hitting left handed and she looked at me like I was crazy,” Blackburn recalled. “I watched it for a while through the scrimmages and in Bryan. Once she moved back to the left side, she was our leading hitter in the Round Rock Tournament. She’s done a great job in working her way in the leadoff role.”
Stewart had a breakout offensive season in 2014. She tied a team-high with 10 home runs her junior season (tied Alyson Bishoff), two of which were grand slams and one led to the District 8-5A Championship at Midway. A .413 career hitter, Stewart had 15 home runs, 99 runs batted in, has 131 hits, 43 multi-hit games, 25 multi-RBI games and has a .435 average (60-of-138) with runners in scoring position.
“She has been a stalwart in our lineup,” Blackburn said. “Since she has been in the program, she has either been a three, four or five-hole hitter in the lineup. Last year, both Alcozer and Stewart benefitted from having Bishoff bat between them because you can’t pitch around three people. We have seen more people go at Alcozer this year in the three-hole and if they get her out, they are going at Skylar. So you are seeing the best batters and they challenge pitchers. I have dropped her down in the lineup lately and I have liked the move because Skylar is producing and helps set up the bottom of the lineup for successful production.”
Hitt was brought up her freshman season following an injury to former Lady Tiger catcher Kacey Schescke. Since the call-up, she has played catcher the majority of the time. In 94 career games, she has a .308 batting average with two home runs, 50 runs batted in, 70 hits, 16 multi-hit games, nine multi-RBI games and has hit .333 (32-of-96) with runners in scoring position.
“She’s had an unbelievable season offensively, definitely her best season,” Blackburn said. “She missed her first six games and then came back with a vengeance, doubling on the first pitch she saw of the season at the Round Rock Tournament. We had her at the designated player position for a few games, which understandably frustrated her. We made some adjustments defensively which has worked out well and she is back to catching again. She’s been a leader and has caught all three of Sidney’s perfect games this season, which is special for them playing together for so long (going back to early days playing select softball together). It’s been fun to watch this season and I have been pleased with Shelby because I have gotten more than I expected. That’s always great to see in a senior season. You always expect to see a little dip during the senior season, but here she is down near the bottom of the lineup, driving runs in. I’m happy for Shelby and caps off a four-year career where she has been a leader of sorts behind the plate.”
The 2015 senior class has a multitude of All-District honors between them, coupled with many playoff games between them, makes them one of the most prolific classes on the field and off of it.
“In terms of individual success, absolutely,” Blackburn said. “We haven’t had the success we would have liked in the past three seasons. In their freshman season, we went four rounds deep. Out of the five freshmen from that season, four are still with us. They have been a huge part of the growth of our program and they will be dearly missed.”