By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
Getting back into game situations against some of the area’s Austin squads was the focus of the Belton Lady Tigers’ three-game, round robin series Saturday at the Noack Softball Complex in Austin last Saturday.
The trio of games was not only to help head coach Matt Blackburn and assistant coaches Courtney Crossley and Whitney Landers to help evaluate players, but gave the Lady Tigers a chance to see some opponents they wouldn’t usually see.
The first game on the schedule for Belton was Rockdale. Kaitlyn Jones was hit by a pitch to start the game. She took second when the Rockdale catcher attempted to pick her off of first base, but no one was covering the bag. After a called third-strike for the first out, Jones stole third base and scored on Skylar Stewart’s sacrifice fly to give Belton a 1-0 lead.
Sidney Holman struck out four of the seven batters she faced in the first two innings, while walking just one batter.
In the top of the third inning, Shelby Hitt and Sydney Andrews walked. Following a strikeout for the first out, Brittany Bass hit a shot into the hole at shortstop. The shortstop went to second instead of the sure play on the force out at third base. With two outs and the bases loaded, Lusby walked to score Hitt. Stewart drilled the next pitch high in the air to the base of the left field wall, but the ball was caught, robbing Stewart a chance at a grand slam. The Lady Tigers led 2-0 after two-and-a-half innings.
Stewart came in to pitch the third inning. Following a flyout to Jones at second base, Rockdale picked up a walk. The runner tried to steal on the next pitch, but Hitt rifled the ball down to an awaiting Jones at second base to get the second out of the inning. Following another walk, Bass used the backhand to field a shot destined for the left-field corner. She fired over to Cameron Jackson to get Belton out of the inning.
Freshman Bethany Edwards walked to start the fourth inning. Andrews hit a towering fly over the centerfielder’s head, but Edwards could only get as far as second base. The pair pulled off a double steal on the second pitch of Baylee Leifester’s at-bat. On the next pitch, the ball got by the Rockdale catcher and Edwards scored, moving Andrews to third base. Leifester dropped a perfect suicide squeeze along the first baseline, scoring Andrews to make the score 4-0.
The Lady Tigers took six walks and had just two singles, but the base running and pitching was on point. Holman and Stewart no-hit Rockdale, only facing 11 batters, striking out four and walking three.
Time expired in the 75-minute game and Belton readied up for their second game of the day against Austin Anderson.
Holman started the second game in the circle and came out hot, but a little wild. She struck out the first batter, but the third strike got away from Andrews and the runner advanced. A second wild pitch advanced the runner to second. Following a pair of strikeouts, a check swing single went over Stewart’s head a first as she charged the plate on a bunt read. The runner scored and Anderson took a 1-0 lead.
“There was absolutely nothing she could do about that one,” Blackburn said. “Perfectly positioned ball on a check-swing.”
Holman struck out the last batter of the inning and the Lady Tigers went to work on offense.
Bass walked in the bottom of the first and advanced to second on Lusby’s sacrifice bunt. Lusby reached first when the second baseman covering first dropped the throw. Stewart sacrificed, but the third baseman dropped the ball. Bass was caught in a rundown for the first out, but Edwards’ single scored Lusby to tie the ball game a 1-1. A fielder’s choice gave the Lady Tigers a bases-loaded situation, but a ground out ended the inning.
Anderson scratched out a run on a single, hit batter, a passed ball and wild pitch to give them a 2-1. But Holman put down the rally with a pair of strikeouts.
In the top of the third, Anderson was poised to get to reliever Leifester, as the first batter singled. But a well-timed play by Andrews behind the plate firing a throw down to Lusby picked off the attempted steal. Following a hit batter and single, Leifester struck out the final two hitters of the inning.
The Lady Tigers revved the offense up in the bottom of the third. Lusby hit a scorcher between shortstop and third for a single. Following a flyout, Edwards doubled past shortstop, with Lusby advancing to third base. Lusby scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at 2-2. After a strikeout, Leifester singled home Edwards to give Belton a 3-2 lead. Ryleigh Jarvis dropped down a perfect bunt that she not only beat out at first, but ran all the way to an uncovered second base for a double, with Leifester advancing to third base. Kendall Mraz drilled a liner down the left field line into the corner for a two-run double to give Belton a 5-2 lead.
Anderson scored on a hit batter and a long triple to make the score 5-3. The next batter hit three long fly balls down the left-field line foul. Leifester walked the batter and time expired, giving the Lady Tigers the win.
The final game of the day was against Cedar Creek. Trailing 1-0 in the top of the fourth inning with one out, Destinye Moore singled to break up the no-hitter, Bass was hit by a pitch and Lusby walked to load the bases. Two runs scored on Edwards’ fly-out and Lusby scored on Stewart’s double to make the score 3-1. Holman shut down Cedar Creek in the bottom of the fourth to win the ballgame.
The Lady Tigers’ 3-4-5 hitters in the lineup went a combined 6-of-13 at the plate, with five runs scored and six RBI.
Pitching allowed just four runs on eight hits over three games (one was a no-hitter over Rockdale), striking out 19 (Holman with 17) and allowing just six walks.
The Lady Tigers took on the Leander Rouse Raiders on Tuesday and are slated to travel to Cedar Ridge for a round robin scrimmage at Vista Ridge High School starting at 11 a.m. The Lady Tigers will take on (Class 5A No. 3) Elgin at 11 a.m., Round Rock Westwood at 12:30 p.m. and Vista Ridge at 3 p.m.