By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
Sports Editor’s note: This is the first part of a three-part series highlighting Belton sports and teams from 2014. The Best of Teams Part I will run in January 1, 2015’s sports page and The Best of Teams Part II will run in January 8, 2015’s sports page.
The 2014 year in Belton sports had many great moments. There are a few “surprise” moments in the mix and I most certainly will end up leaving a favorite or two out. But there were a bunch of them in 2014.
Here is the list of the ones that made our list in 2014:
The Hit: Richard Kimble’s de-cleating hit on special teams during the Belton-Killeen game.
Kimble is one of those players that made an impact on special teams. But the hit he put on a Killeen defender to create a fumble on a pooch kick against Killeen was one of the plays that changed the course of the Belton Tigers’ 2014 football season. The Tigers went on to win the ballgame 33-32.
“It was a great hit by Richard Kimble and great kick by Blake (Odell),” Belton head coach Bob Shipley said of the hit. “That was a game-changer for us. It hasn’t always been the case this season. But it was.”
The Swim: Boys’ 400-yard relay team wins event to win District 12-5A Title
Those who are not familiar with the Belton Swimming program may ask themselves why this event made the Best of 2014.
The dominance of the Belton High School Swim Team locally over the past several years cannot be looked past. The girls’ team in 2014 dominated the District 12-5A meet and finished second at Regional meet. The boys’ team, rebuilding after a dominating 2013, was battling Harker Heights, Temple and Waco Midway in a hotly contested District 12-5A meet in Belton.
The Tigers held a 14.5 point lead over Midway going into the final event, which was the 400-yard relay. The crowd in attendance was a deafening one following the starting horn, as the relay team of Troy Morrow, Jake Fitzwater, Tristan Boss and Brandon Smith embarked on a 3:23.11 swim that the four will remember for the rest of their lives.
Morrow beat Midway’s Ryan Boldt by .26 seconds as he relayed to Fitzwater. Jake outswam Panther swimmer David Schwarz by .58 seconds upon his relay to Boss. Tristan outswam strong Panther swimmer Neil Wachtler by .99 seconds, increasing the margin to 1.57 seconds as he relayed to the anchor swimmer Smith. Brandon outswam Panther swimmer Bryan Rhoades by .16 seconds to clinch the district win for Belton, defeating Midway 3:23.11 to 3:24.83.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Fitzwater said after the presentation. “We walked into everyboy’s picture. Coming in, it looked like Midway was going to finish first, followed by Temple and Heights. We were written off to fourth place. We fought back and stood up to every test. I couldn’t be happier.”
“Seeing the guys and how much adrenaline that they had during the relay got us all excited,” Belton Lady Tiger swimmer Megan Nitcher said of the relay event. “They swam so hard that we really fed off of it.”
The moment was summed up by Nitcher perfectly about the crowd noise at the Roy and Jean Potts Swim Center that day.
“None of our meets get that loud at school,” Nitcher said. “That was crazy and fun. I’m glad I was here.”
Full Staff: Stafford’s three-homer, 10 RBI game against Shoemaker
Not many Tigers have had a night like Shane Stafford in the long, storied history of the Belton Baseball program.
Stafford had one of the most prolific games ever for the Tigers when he rapped three home runs and batted in 10 runs in a District 8-5A ballgame against the Killeen Shoemaker Grey Wolves, in Belton’s 22-5 win to clinch the District 8-5A Championship.
The first of Stafford’s clouts was a three-run blast, scoring Walker Winders and Jared Janczak to give the Tigers a 4-0 in the first inning.
The second of the blasts was in an 18-batter inning for the Tigers, a three-run shot scoring Janczak and Chase Cryer to make the score 11-0. After Coby Potvin’s first career homer made the score 14-0 and Janczak knocked in Mark Herrington to make the score 15-0, the bases were loaded for Stafford’s final shot: a grand slam to make the score 19-0.
The boxscore read after two innings for Stafford: 3-for-3, three homers, 10 runs batted in. That in just two innings.
“I can’t say I’ve ever had a game like that,” Stafford said of the feat. “It was a pretty neat experience.”
Great Stew: Skylar Stewart’s grand slam helps Lady Tigers take District 8-5A crown
It was a soggy, rainy game at Waco Midway on April 17 and a game that was circled on the Lady Tigers’ calendar. A bold prediction from a young pitcher from the Lady Panthers still lingered from a mid-season press clipping that Midway was going to win state was still fresh in the minds of the Lady Tigers’ faithful, even after the domination at Lady Tiger Field 12-2 in four-and-a-half innings on March 21.
The Lady Tigers got an early jump on Midway, as Alyson Bishoff’s walk and Skylar Stewart’s triple got Belton on the board. Kaitlyn Jones’ sacrifice fly scored Stewart to make the score 2-0.
Belton scratched out a run in the third inning to make the score 3-0 and loaded the bases with Brittany Bass, Bishoff and Bekah Alcozer, Belton’s Killer B’s who terrorized teams all season hitting in the two through four spots in the order.
But Double S had the crushing blow, with the opposite-field grand slam to put the Lady Tigers up 7-0 in the third.
The homer was instrumental, as the Pantherettes rallied for five runs and if not for amazing plays at second base in the sixth and seventh innings by Makayla Hernandez, Midway may have caught Belton.
Stewart’s grand slam was catalyst that propelled Belton in that game.
“I’m still shaking from that,” Stewart said after the game. “It was such an amazing feeling and I am so happy for our team.”
Two Queens and a Jack: Krenek, Lewis and Jack’s performances at UIL State Track Meet
On May 10, hurdler Kaylee Krenek, shot putter Chloe Lewis and runner Cager Jack participated in the Texas UIL Class 5A State Track Meet in Austin.
Lewis was the first participant for the Tigers in the meet, as she set a personal and Belton school record with her fifth throw, a distance of 44 feet, 4 ¼ inches. The throw was good for fourth overall in the state.
“I was very happy with my performance,” Lewis said, now at the University of Texas at Arlington. “I was able to set my new personal high and reset the school record.”
Krenek was the next participant, who made a return trip to Austin after her ninth-place finish during her sophomore year of 2013. She got out of the blocks quickly in the 100 meter hurdles and finished with a personal-best 13.75, finishing in fifth place in 2014.
“”I’m really happy to have been able to return to Austin,” Krenek said after the event. “I’m running at my best right now and cannot wait for next year.”
Jack was the final Belton participant. Fighting off an upset stomach, Jack ran in the 400 meter run. He got a slow start out of the blocks, but with a name like Cager Jack, you know he’s fast. He gained ground on the entire field and almost ran down champion Devante Lacy of Klein Oak. Jack’s 47.07 was just behind Lacy’s 46.10.
“I got so nervous that my stomach was upset,” Jack said, now a track and field participant at Texas Tech. “But I’m proud of myself for my first time here. It’s everything I thought it would be.”
The Pick: Hunter Garrett’s interception against Harker Heights clinches playoff spot
With a playoff berth on the line against Harker Heights on Nov. 7, Belton had their backs against the wall against the Knights.
With Harker Heights recovering the onside kick at the Belton 49 and were in business again following making the score 45-34, the Knights scored again with Heights’ quarterback Troy Smith hitting D’undre Mitchell for a 35-yard touchdown pass. Broihier’s extra-point made the score 45-40 with 4:55 remaining and the tension at Tiger Field was palpable.
Ryan Johnson recovered Heights’ onside kick attempt at the Belton 39. The Tigers milked 2:29 off the clock before a fumble was recovered by Ryan Turck on the Heights 45.
The defense forced a fumble on first down that was recovered by Josh Ellis on the Heights 37. On second and third downs, Smith threw passes that landed incomplete. Heights’ head coach Jerry Edwards called timeout with 1:32 remaining on the clock to discuss the strategy.
On fourth down and 12 on the Belton 35, Smith rolled out to his left and let a pass fly towards double-coverage. Garrett intercepted the ball on the Belton 29 and tumbled out of bounds into the Belton bench area. The bench erupted into a frenzy of relief and joy, as did the Belton student section behind the bench.
The Tigers milked the clock and won the game, capping off the game in frenetic fashion
“It was just a fitting way to make the playoffs,” said Belton head coach Bob Shipley. “We can’t do things half way can we? I’m really proud of these kids. The defense played well and made stops when they needed them. The offense played well and made some fourth down conversions. We made field goals when we needed them. ”We have a lot we have to clean up.”
Always Bet on Red: Belton beats Garland in Bi-Districts, amidst local media picking against them
There were a few of great moments within the Belton bi-district win over Garland that will be remembered.
The first was the hard, persistent running by Kavan Johnson. The last touchdown that he scored against the Owls is etched into the memory of Tigers’ faithful, as he was hit by two Owls and nearly brought down on the Garland 9-yard line. Johnson regained his balance and dragged three Owls to the goal line and stretched across for the touchdown. The relentless effort of Johnson in the 2014 season earned the senior 1,200 yards rushing.
The second was the constant enthusiasm of the team during the game. The team constantly rallied around each facet of the team, being the offense, defense and special teams.
The third was the image that the Belton student body will remember. As the clock struck zero, linebacker Tevin Jones, who broke the single-season Tiger tackle record, did a “Tevin Leap” into the student section to show his appreciation for the Bang Crew, the Belton student section nickname that rallied around the team and went everywhere with the Tigers.
The final image is Belton head coach Bob Shipley gathering the Tigers after the game and taking out of his pocket a press clipping from a local media outlet unaminously picking Garland to win the ball game.
“They never gave us a chance,” Shipley told his players. “You proved them wrong tonight.” Shipley wadded up the paper and threw it away, inspiring a roar from the team.
“Every kid on the team got a copy of the newspaper that had it in there.” Shipley said. “It just showed them that nobody picked us to make the playoffs and that no one picked us to win a playoff game. As a coach, you try to find an edge and put that chip on the kids shoulder. If they have that chip on their shoulder, you’ll get more out of them.”
It was a win that was very gratifying for the first-yard Tigers’ boss. “It was amazingly gratifying,” Shipley said. “It’s hard to know what to expect with Garland. They had the third-leading rusher in the Metroplex, yardage-wise. We hadn’t played against a common opponent, so you really don’t know what your up against. This was incredibly gratifying for our kids. It was very well-deserved.”
Both sides of the ball played well and got key plays when needed.”
The 3-Run Grand Slam: Hitt’s first career home run grand slam against Temple
The softball rivalry between Belton and Temple came to a temporary halt after the 2014 season.
But the pair of games in 2014 were two of the most interesting games in the rivalry.
In the home tilt on March 7, Belton was shaking off a 2-0 lead in the first inning. The Lady Tigers tied the game in the second inning and had rallied to take a 5-2 lead inthe third on an RBI single by Alyson Bishoff and Kacey Schescke and Kaitlyn Dunahoo getting hit by pitches.
So with Bishoff on third base, Schescke on second base and Dunahoo on first base, third-year varsity catcher Shelby Hitt stepped to the plate. Recently snapped out of a slump, Hitt found her stroke and hit the ball well against Ellison, the game prior.
With one out, Hitt blasted a laser-shot five-foot right of the leftfield pole for apparently grand slam. In the midst of the excitement, Hitt leapt past Dunahoo on the base paths between second and third. Dunahoo was called out and only three runs counted. It was a light, funny moment, as the Lady Tigers went on to win 9-2.
The Belton fans will always remember the shot as a three-run grand slam. Temple went on to win the second game at TemCats Field 5-4 in eight innings, erasing Belton’s 4-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth.
The two teams would come together in May to honor the memory of Kimberlyn Longbotham in May, as she in a tragic automobile accident returning home from a Belton Tigers’ playoff baseball game the night of May 2 and passed away early on the morning of May 3.
Tragedy and Respect: Honoring Kimmy Longbotham and respecting Jayme Kidder
In a memory that far transcends sports, many people in the softball and baseball communities came together on Saturday, May 3 to pay tribute to the life of Kimmy Longbotham.
The Temple and Belton softball teams, as well as other area teams, paid tribute to Kimmy with a balloon release of several hundred balloons at TemCat Field on Saturday afternoon.
About 40 miles north in Waco, the Belton Tigers played game three of the Bi-District round of the Class 5A baseball playoffs.
Jayme Kidder, Kimmy’s brother, had elected to play in the game. The family supported the decision to play and the attendees on both Belton and South Grand Prairie’s sides wore wristbands to support Kimmy and Jayme.
When Kidder was announced in the second inning at-bat, the fans on both sides stood and gave Jayme a standing ovation. The emotion overcame Jayme as he stepped out of the box and wiped his eyes. The heated series between the two teams that had two years of broiling emotions were cooled, as both Tigers and Warriors came to the rails to support Jayme.
Unfortunately, Kidder was hit with the first pitch he saw after that. The Tigers lost 6-4 and were eliminated.
So the emotions, still raw from the day, came through once again as the family went to home plate at Baylor Ballpark to celebrate Kimmy’s life with a balloon lift. The silent onlookers on the field watched and wept as the blue balloons lifted skyward towards Heaven.
Kimberlyn Longbotham’s funeral was one of the most attended funerals of the years, as hundreds of people gathered for the viewing on May 9 and her funeral and funeral precession on May 10. Strong in her faith and love for God and for friends and families, the memories of Kimmy far exceed her excellence on the softball field, but as a championship-caliber person.
It also served as a catalyst for a bonding moment between Temple Wildcats and Belton Tigers.
Wildcat Strong: Temple Wildcats run to the Class 5A-Region I State Championship game
Another series of moments that melded long-time rivals Belton and Temple together was the resurgence of Belton Football and Temple Football’s ran at a state championship.
With many Temple and Belton players being related and good friends, the two teams supported each other during their respective playoff runs.
As Belton’s playoff run was ended in the Area round by eventual Class6A State semifinalist Dallas Skyline, Temple made their deepest playoff since their last state championship in 1992.
Belton fans joined the Wildcat fans in supporting the team, with some fans donning the blue-and-white and some fans donning red shirts with a blue T on the front, a blue Belton B on the back of the shirt with the saying “It’s ok to be a fan for a day.” Though some Belton purists did not jump on board with the support, the support that the Tigers’ faithful gave to Temple compounded the numbers, as seen by attendance figures in Cypress, Round Rock, San Antonio and at the Texas UIL Class 5A-Region I Championship game last Saturday. An announced attendance of 40,291 witnessed the game between the Wildcats and Aledo, with Temple visually drawing more fans.
There were several moments from the Wildcats run that were memorable, including Cole Martin’s 42-yard field goal to beat Ridge Point in Cypress, Chad President’s play-making ability, including a throw in midair while landing out of bounds against Aledo and Jordan Lee’s fabulous juggling touchdown catch against the Bearcats in the state title game.
Shipley, President and Henry join Tigers varsity staffs
Belton athletic director/head football coach Rodney Southern stepped down from his post on January 30 and became the new head coach/athletic director in Huntsville. So the hunt was on for a new “CEO of Belton Athletics”. Belton athletic director/head coach Bob Shipley was officially hired on March 3 and the hiring of new Belton varsity basketball coach David President and swimming coach Patrick Henry followed soon after. Shipley went 6-6 in his first year coaching the Tigers, turning around a 2-4 start to guide Belton to its first playoff game in a few seasons.
President’s turnaround of the basketball program resulted in a fourth-place finish in San Angelo and a tournament championship at Greenville. He and his assistant, Rapheal Posey, have coached up the players and have won nine of their last 12 games as of press time.
Henry’s guidance of the swim program has kept in the tradition of the winning ways of Belton swimming. With several records being set and reset through meets throughout the season, the Belton Tigers and Lady Tigers swimmers have set themselves up to be a major contender for a state title run in 2015.
Backstories: Belton youth baseball players overcome odds, shine in district championship game
One of the best moments an athlete can have in their life is the chance to atone for an error in a big moment or return from an ailment to come up big. Three awesome stories combined into an amazing moment between the Belton A’s and the Belton Cardinals in July at the 10U District Playoffs at Heritage Park in July. First, Grant Baggerly was playing centerfield for the A’s and made a crucial error that tied the game at 5-5. Now, I am impartial, as these are both Belton teams. But being friends with so many players’ parents on both sides, I couldn’t help but feel bad for him.
When they got back to the dugout, Baggerly was visually dejected. So I leaned over to him through the fence and said, “Hey Grant. You can pout about this all you want. But it’s a brand new ballgame at 5-5. You have a shot to win this and it could come down to you. Get up to bat, get on base, score the game-winning run. It’s up to you.” So the bottom of the sixth comes, Baggerly was the leadoff batter, singles to center and advances to second on a wild pitch. He did his part.
The second part of the story involved Cardinals relief pitcher TJ Johnson. Johnson was hit in the forearm by a pitch the night before and it swelled up. His mom helped ice it down for him and was called on to pitch in relief. His two brothers were also playing district championship games in the T-Ball and Machine Pitch Divisions.
The third part of the story is when Josiah Mojica comes up. Mojica was sidelined most of the Spring with an injury. His mother and father were instrumental in his comeback and Mojica had played throughout the tournament and had a chance to do what every kid and adult has ever dreamed about: get a game-winning hit to win a ball game. Fighting off multiple pitches from TJ, the player whom the A’s affectionately call “Baby J” connects on a fastball and lines it up the middle for a double. Baggerly is off at the crack of the bat and scores the district championship-winning run.
The unique part of the scene is from the pictures, Mojica was stunned and it didn’t occur to him what happened until the happy-go-lucky A’s came charging out of the dugout. It was a moment frozen in time on that hot, dragon-fly ridden Heritage Park field. It was a great scene and congratulations to the A’s on undefeated season.
Hats off to the Cardinals as well. As any competitor does, they were down and disappointed. They battled the A’s hard all year and the two teams just played amazing, fundamentally sound baseball on the field. It was exactly the way a championship game should be like. They showed impeccable sportsmanship and handled it all very well. They are all friends on away from the field teams, so it made the evening special.
The Johnson family finished the night with a Machine District Championship (Belton Aces) and two second-place finishes. The Aces went on to finish as state runner-up in the Machine Pitch Division of Texas Teenage Baseball.
Other moments include:
Coby Potvin’s three-point shot against Killeen on Dec. 19 forces overtime. In another “Potvin moment”, Coby’s long punt return at Killeen near the end of the first half played a key role in the Tigers’ 33-32 win over the Roos.
Bob Shipley’s first win at the helm of the Tigers: a 48-0 win over Waco University.
Sidney Holman’s perfect game opens District 8-5A play with a 19-0 win over Harker Heights.
Troy Frick throws a pair of district no-hitters against Harker Heights and Killeen Ellison. In the Ellison game, catcher Joey Hogan blasted two homers in the 10-0 win.
Matthew Lawyer qualifies for the Class 5A state golf championship.
The Belton girls’ soccer team win bi-district title, but fall 1-0 in area round.
Belton boys’ lose in bi-district round on penalty kicks.
Alyson Bishoff hits a crushing three-run homer in Glen Rose to pull the Lady Tigers’ closer in their area playoff series against Lewisville, the 2013 defending state champions.
Makayla Hernandez’s defensive gem in the sixth inning of the Midway-Belton game in Hewitt, fielding a ricochet off of Sidney Holman’s foot, saving two runs in a 7-5 win over the Lady Panthers.
Jared Janczak’s key pitching and the solid infield of Mark Herrington, Walker Winders, Chase Cryer and Chase Sortor for Belton baseball, making several key defensive plays throughout 2014.
Crusaders’ head basketball coach Ken DeWeese hits prestigious 700-win mark on January 23 and 300-win mark as UMHB’s head coach on February 8.
UMHB’s fifth consecutive perfect regular season in football and advancement to the Second Round of the NCAA Division III Championships.
UMHB softball’s 10-game winning streak.
UMHB Volleyball clinching the American Southwest Conference Tournament Championship.
UMHB softball’s doubleheader upset of No. 10-ranked Linfield 1-0 and 2-1.