By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
The Belton Lady Tigers will take on the Rowlett Lady Eagles starting Friday night at Highland Park’s Lady Scots Field.
The venue was a fortunate find for Lady Tigers’ head coach Matt Blackburn. Many coaches have scrambled for turf fields to get in best-of-three series statewide.
“The Rowlett head coach (Philip Spaniel) has been great to work with in this round,” Blackburn said. “We looked several places and with this weather, we were very fortunate to get Highland. Especially when it came to being able to play three games here.”
One of the other neat things that Blackburn gives Spaniel for is taking in consideration that Belton centerfielder and University of Texas commit Bekah Alcozer is participating in the discus event at the UIL Class 6A Track & Field State Championships on Saturday.
“He said that we need to make sure that she can throw the discus at the state meet on Saturday and not feel bad about it,” Blackburn said. “So it was important to both of us to get this series in on Thursday and Friday, which is another reason we are going to Highland Park: to get the games in.”
Rowlett finished 10-3 in District 11-6A play and 21-5 overall. Being in a district with Rockwall, the Lady Eagles are a battle-tested bunch and that is something that Blackburn has had his eye on.
“They played Rockwall tight during the district season, losing 3-2 in the first game,” Blackburn said. “In the second game, they run-ruled Rowlett. Based on what the Midway coaches have observed and told me, they think we are better than Rockwall.”
Based on that observation, Blackburn has confidence in the team, like always.
“Going into the series, I have to feel like we are the favorites,” Blackburn said. “I keep telling people that ask me why I am going one game against MacArthur that one factor was the weather and not play out a three-game series.”
Fields and weather factors set Twitter abuzz through last Friday and Saturday, as many schools scrambled for dry fields.
“It’s not only a decision where you don’t want to hurt your team, you don’t want to hurt your pitcher,” Blackburn explained. “Even going into this round, not many teams have a weapon like Sidney Holman. I know for a fact that MacArthur hadn’t seen anything like her (14 Lady Cardinals struck out Friday night in five innings again Holman in 16 batters she faced). Sachse hadn’t seen anything like her and I keep my fingers crossed that Rowlett hadn’t seen anything like her.”
Inside the numbers
Rowlett has a pair of hurlers that do the majority of work in the circle for the Lady Eagles. Brianna Sims (10-4, 2.97 ERA, 75 1/3 IP, 32 earned runs, 54 Ks, 29 BB) and Erin Kiser (5-1. 2.29 ERA, 33 2/3 IP, 11 earned runs, 25 Ks, nine BB) anchor the center of the defense for Rowlett.
Holman goes into the series just seven strikeouts away from resetting her own school record in strikeouts (211 currently, 218 is the record). The 218 strikeouts was accomplished in 33 games in 2014. So she is well ahead of pace. Her 1.43 ERA in 132 innings is also ahead of her 2.66 ERA in 178 innings of 2014. Her 54 walks are well ahead of her 78 in 2014. All of her pitch totals are exponentially better.
Alex Kalldin is the leading hitter for the Lady Eagles, hitting .500 with two homers and 29 RBIs. Rowlett has three other hitters with 20+ runs batted in (Sims 28, Kendyl Dockter 27 and Victoria Rodriguez 21). Dockter also had seven homers to lead Rowlett.
Belton goes into the series with Kaitlyn Jones still leading the team in average (.538), runs (33), hits (35), stolen bases (20) and sacrifice bunts (6). She is second in doubles (6), RBIs (28) and hit-by-pitches (5). Alcozer leads the team with seven homers, hit-by-pitches (6) and walks (14).
The Lady Tigers are scary good when it comes to runners in scoring position (RISP) and has a better team average with RISP (.421, 115-of-273) than batting average (.387, 234-of-604).
Jones, who hit .925 in district with RISP, is hitting .700 (21-of-30) to lead the team. Baylee Leifester (2-of-3, .667) Sydney Andrews (6-of-12, .500), Bethany Edwards (17-of-36, .472), Destynie Moore (11-of-26, .423), Holman (5-of-12, .417), Alcozer (12-of-29, .414), Brittany Bass (14-of-36, .389), Skylar Stewart (10-of-26, .385), Shelby Hitt (8-of-25, .320) and Madison Winkler (4-of-13, .308) are all hitting above .300 with runners in scoring position.