Softball goes 4-2 at Bryan-College Station Tournament

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Pitcher Madison Cotton delivers the first pitch of the game on Friday against Huntsville. (Feb. 17, 2017. Photo courtesy of Tony Adams, The Belton Journal)

The Belton Lady Tigers Softball team started its 2017 regular season at the Bryan-College Station Tournament, looking for a great start to their new season.

It wasn’t the opening the team hoped for, but it was an exciting ending that will have fans talking about the conclusion all season.

Belton lost the first game of the tournament on Thursday afternoon to defending TAPPS 4A State Champion Fort Bend Christian Academy 1-0 in a 7-inning, International Tie Breaker. They came back to hammer Round Rock 10-0 in four innings. On Friday, they shut out Huntsville 8-0 and later, lost to Elgin, 3-2. On Saturday, they shut out Fort Bend Clements 4-0 and came from three runs down twice to beat Houston Bellaire 7-6 in a 6-inning ITB game.

The Lady Tigers went 4-2 in the tournament, outscoring the opposition 31-10 in six games.

Belton and FBCA were locked up in a scoreless tie through the first six innings of the opener at the Bryan Regional Athletic Complex Big Bend Field. The Tigers dodged a bullet in the first inning when the Lady Eagles put runners on first and second with one out. Madison Cotton struck the first and fourth hitters of the innings and Meredith Lusby snagged a fly ball to get Belton out of trouble.

Big Red got their first runner on in the top of the third inning when Madison Sniggs walked, but was caught trying to steal second base.

The most serious threat for either side in regulation was in the top of the fourth inning for the Tigers. Avery Drake singled, was sacrifice bunted to second by Lusby, Bethany Edwards reached by way of a walk and Madison Ward walked with two outs. A foul out to first base left the Tigers with the bases loaded and nothing to show for it.

The game ended up in ITB. The rule in ITB is the last batter that recorded an out in the prior inning is placed on second base. In the first inning of ITB (the seventh inning), Edwards was placed on second. The FBCA catcher made an amazing diving on a bunt attempt by Caleigh Robinson for the first out. Madison Ward singled, moving Edwards to third. Back-to-back strikeouts ended the inning.

The Lady Eagles pushed across the winning run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh to send the Tigers to their first loss of the season, and a hard-luck one at that.

Drake and Ward collected the only hits for Belton, who stranded five runners on base. Cotton allowed a run on four hits, striking out five batters in the loss. Taylor Tubbs pitched 3 2/3 innings, allowing one run and striking out two.

After breaking for a couple of hours, the Tigers played Round Rock. It took no time at all to take Lady Dragons pitching to task. Drake singled, moved to second on a groundout by Lusby and scored on a single by Edwards.

Hannah Kelley got her first high school start and was able to skirt trouble, after allowing a leadoff double to Madi Johnson. She was able to strand Johnson at third base after a couple of strikeouts.

Belton picked up two runs in the second, as Madison Bartlett walked, Drake singled and Lusby tripled them both home to make the score 3-0.

Kelley worked out of a first and third situation on a smooth play on a liner to third base into the glove of Madison Bartlett to end the inning.

The floodgates opened in the third inning, as they plated six runs. Robinson, Ward and Tubbs singled to load the bases. With one out, Madison Bartlett walked to force in Robinson. Drake singled home Robinson and Ward, Lusby singled in Madison Bartlett and Drake, and Edwards singled in Lusby to make the score 9-0.

Tubbs singled with one out in the fourth and was run for by Alexis Maybee. Mackenzie Bartlett and Ryleigh Jarvis each singled to load the bases and Drake singled in Maybee to make the score 10-0

Tubbs, who came in and got out of a bases-loaded jam in the third inning, stranded a runner on in the fourth inning to end the ballgame in run-rule fashion.

Kelley picked up her first high school win, working two innings, giving up three hits and striking out two. Tubbs pitched two innings of scoreless relief, allowing four hits and striking out two.

Drake was 3-of-4 with three RBIs; Lusby with 2-of-4 with four RBI and Edwards was 2-of-3 with two RBI. Both teams left seven runners on base.

On Friday, the Lady Tigers went the Stephen Beachy Central Park to take on the Huntsville Lady Hornets in consolation bracket play.

Cotton got the start in the circle and retired the first nine batters she faced.

The Tigers struck in the top of the second inning. Ward was hit by a pitch, Tubbs reached on a fielder’s choice and Madison Bartlett pulled a double down the left field line to score Ward and Tubbs to put Belton up 2-0.

Belton scored a single run in the fourth, as Madison Bartlett and Jarvis each singled and then pulled off a double steal. Drake grounded out on a ball throw that she beat to the bag by a step, but was called out. Madison Bartlett scored to increase the Tigers’ lead to three.

Tubbs came on and pitched her was out of a first and third situation with two fly outs to Ward in left and a fly out to Lusby at shortstop.

Belton posted a pair of runs for more insurance in the fifth inning. Edwards singled and scored on a throwing error that landed Tubbs on first. Mackenzie Bartlett singled Tubbs to third and Mackenzie Bartlett singled to get Tubbs home.

Tubbs retired the side in the circle in the fifth inning to allow Belton to plate three more in the sixth inning. Drake singled and stole two bases. Lusby drove in Drake with a double, Edwards drove home Lusby with a double and Robinson singled home Edwards to make the score 8-0.

Cotton came back in with one out in the sixth and slammed the door to complete the win.

Madison Bartlett had three his and three RBI. Edwards and Drake each had two hits for the Tigers, who out hit Huntsville 12-3, and left nine runners on base.

Cotton and Tubbs combined for the three-hitter, striking out five and walking just one.

The win pitted Belton against a familiar foe in Elgin, who faced Belton at the Vista Ridge round robin scrimmage a week ago. The score of that game was a 3-3 tie.

The Tigers wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard, jumping on starting pitcher Kaylee Berdoll. Drake hit a double that caromed off of Elgin third baseman Ava McCoy’s head into left field. Lusby sacrificed her to Drake and Robinson drove her home to give Belton the lead, 1-0.

Jayme Johns singled and scored on Gracy Crafts’ single to tie game at 1-1 in the first inning.

The score stayed tied until the top of the fourth inning. Ward singled, Miranda Davila sacrifice bunted her to second and Madison Bartlett single plated Ward to give Belton a 2-1 lead.

Crafts doubled to start the bottom of the fourth for the Ladycats. With two outs, McCoy drove in Crafts to tie the game at 2-2.

Elgin knocked in the go-ahead run in the fifth when Johns reached on an error. She was kept at bay momentarily when a sacrifice bunt attempt was dove for and caught for by Madison Bartlett, but scored on Tori Aldridge’s single.

Belton was able to get Tubbs into scoring position on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Mackenzie Bartlett. But a strong run to snag Madison Bartlett’s long fly ball ended to game with Belton losing 3-2.

Eight different Tigers collected hits in the game, with Belton leaving six runners on base.

Kelley went 2 1/3 innings, allowed a run on two hits, striking on two and walking one. Cotton collected the loss, going 2 2/3 innings, giving up two runs, with the go-ahead run being unearned. She struck out two in the loss.

After almost a full day’s rest, Belton moved back over to BRAC and played Fort Bend Clements at Glacier Field.

Almost to script, Belton scored first. Drake walked, stole second and third base, and scored on Edwards’ sacrifice fly to put the Tigers up 1-0.

Cotton got the call in the circle. She pitched her way out of first and third jam in the first, nearly making an error at the end of the inning. Lusby backed her up to make the grab. She allowed only one runner in the next inning before giving way to Tubbs.

Belton scratched out two runs in the fifth inning off of starter Miranda Hearn. Mackenzie Bartlett reached base on an error, Madison Bartlett reached with a base hit and Jarvis reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Drake’s fielder’s choice scored Mackenzie Bartlett and Edwards’ second sacrifice fly of the game scored Madison Bartlett to give Belton a comfortable 3-0 lead.

In the top of the sixth inning, Ward and Tubbs were hit by pitches to start the inning. With two outs, Jarvis reached base when Hearn couldn’t come up ball, scoring Ward to give Belton the 4-0 lead.

Belton left six runners on base, compared to Clements’ seven left on.

Cotton pitched two innings for the win, giving up one hit, striking out one and walking one. Tubbs gave up three hits and struck out one for the save. She became the first Tiger to have a save in a ballgame since Meredith Langford had a save in a ballgame in 2013.

The last game of the tournament for Belton was against Houston Bellaire.

Drake led off with a single and stole two bases, Edwards was hit by a pitch and Robinson walked to load the bases. Ward’s sacrifice fly scored Drake to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

Cotton was touched up for four runs in the first two innings, with one only being earned. She was relieved by Tubbs with two outs in the second inning. The Tigers trailed Bellaire 4-1 after two innings.

Belton managed to gain two of the runs back in the third inning. Drake singled, stole her third base of the game, scored on Lusby’s triple and Edwards doubled Lusby home to get the Tigers back to within a run, 4-3.

Tubbs surrendered two runs on four hits in the third inning and Bellaire retook a three-run lead, 6-3.

The Tigers struck back quickly in the fourth. Madison Bartlett doubled, was sacrificed to third by Davila, and Jarvis singled home Madison Bartlett to cut the deficit to two. A walk by Lusby set up a two-run, opposite field double by Edwards to right field to tie the ball game at 6-6.

Neither team scored in the fifth, as time ran out to force the second ITB of the tournament for Belton. Davila was put at second base to start the top of the sixth inning. A perfect sacrifice bunt by Jarvis moved Davila to third base. Drake drilled a ball up the middle for a single, scoring Davila to give Belton a 7-6 lead.

Bellaire placed Leslie Alvarado at second base. Sarah Katzen sacrificed her to third base for the first out. On a 2-0 pitch, Hanna Fradkin hit a hard grounder to Kelley, that landed in Mackenzie Bartlett’s glove and she tossed it to Robinson to get the out at first base. Seeing Katzen was too far off of third base, Robinson launched a throw right on the money at third base to Madison Bartlett, running Katzen towards the plate. Madison Bartlett dove and tagged Katzen on the legs to complete the 1-4-3-5 double play and give Belton the 7-6 win.

Kelley got the win, pitching three innings of scoreless relief, walking just one batter.

Drake was 3-of-4 with an RBI and scored a run, Edwards drove in three runs and Lusby scored twice. Belton left six runners on to Bellaire’s five stranded.

Belton was able to outscore opponents over six games, 31-10. They also stranded more runners on base than the opponents, 39-30.

Drake led the Tigers with a .571 average for the weekend, an on-base percentage of .591, with eight runs, 12 hits, six RBIs, and stole an astounding eight bases.

Edwards led the Tigers in RBIs with eight, on six hits, hitting .400 and had an OBP of .450. Madison Bartlett hit .375 with six hits, six RBI and an OBP of .444. Lusby and Mackenzie Bartlett each had five hits for Belton.

The team was 26-of-74 (.351) with runners in scoring position, had a team batting average of .345 (48-of-139) and a team OBP of .430.

The pitching staff combined to pitch 33 2/3, surrendering 10 runs (six earned) on 35 hits, had a 1.60 ERA, striking out 23 and walking just a miniscule four batters over the six games. Not a bad staff performance that had just a combined three innings of varsity experience in 2016.

Kelley was 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA, allowing one run on six hits, striking out four and walking two in 7 1/3 innings. Cotton was 2-2 with a 2.19 ERA, allowing seven runs (three earned) on 14 hits, waling one and striking out 13. Cotton pitched in five games and picked up a save with an ERA of 1.29, allowing two runs on 15 hits, walking one and striking out six.

When the tournament was all said and done, Belton head coach Matt Blackburn was pleased with the outcome.

“It started off not the way we planned,” Blackburn said. “The big thing that I saw was three pitchers that competed over the weekend. They embraced the idea that they have nine hitters and get as many outs as I can get. The ERA on the weekend was 1.60 and I can live with that. We spotted Bellaire three runs on errors in the game. I challenged them: fight or lay down and die. I want to see some fight. That’s when the fought back with those two runs in the third and then we let them have the two runs back. I told them that it wasn’t over and we did a good job competing until the very end of the game. It’s easy to ride the highs of an emotional game, but it was good to see them fight and compete. We had the Bartlett sisters step up and have a great weekend. I’m just proud of the kids and how they competed. And that we’re leaving this tournament healthy.”

The Round Rock Tournament starts Thursday. Belton will take on Del Valle (11 a.m.) and Round Rock (3 p.m.) on Thursday, Waller (9 a.m.) and Leander (3 p.m.) on Friday and Wharton (10 a.m.) on Saturday.