By Tony Adams

Belton Journal

LEANDER – The Lake Belton Broncos Softball team continued their push through the Class 5A Softball Playoffs last weekend, as they took on the Elgin Wildcats at Glenn High School in Leander.

The Broncos were able to storm to a big finish in the opener and bust open a tight game in the second game to upend the Wildcats for a sweep of the series.

The scores of the games were 13-0 (five innings) and 11-1 (six innings).

Shelby Schultz was masterful in the first game, which was played on Thursday, having twirled a no-hitter, with just one runner reaching on an error.

The offense in the opener was surgical, as the Broncos continued to make things happen on the scoreboard.

Casey Schultz’s solo homer to lead off the second inning got the Broncos on the board.

With one out in the third, Shelby Schultz singled and was run for by Natalie Hosch. Angie DeLeon and Madison Naser walked to load the bases, and Hosch scored on a wild pitch. On a 1-0 fast ball from Elgin reliever Emily Sumner, Casey Schultz drilled a double to the right centerfield gap to score DeLeon and Naser to give the Broncos a 4-0 advantage.

Lake pounded Elgin pitching for six runs in the fourth inning. With Alexis Ortiz, Madison Perkins, and Victoria Shimabukuro singling to start the inning, DeLeon doubled to the left centerfield gap to clear bases. Casey Schultz reached on an error to score DeLeon. Another outfield error scored Casey Schultz and Briley Updyke, who ran for Maddison Ruiz, which upped the Broncos lead to 10-0.

The Broncos put a wrapper on the scoring in the fifth inning. Shimabukuro and Shelby Schultz singled to begin the inning, and DeLeon’s ground out scored Shimabukuro. Shelby Schultz scored on a wild pitch and Ruiz singled home Hosch for the final run of the game.

DeLeon drove home four runs and Casey Schultz added three more RBI.

On Friday, the teams returned to Grizzlies Field.

The game was scoreless through three innings, as the contest began as a pitchers’ duel between Ruiz and Elgin’s Jessica Cantrell.

Elgin took the lead in the top of the fourth when Jaelyn Barker singled home Bianca Galindo.

It was the first time in 107 innings (21 games) that the Broncos trailed at any point in a game, dating back to March 1 when they trailed Godley 1-0 after on inning.

“It was good for us to be down in a game, since it has been so long,” Lake Belton head coach Kelsie McEachern said. “I was really looking to see how we would respond. I think we responded well and did what we needed to do to take back the lead. We are led by a group of six seniors that are HUNGRY. They have fallen short of their goal in years past and will do whatever is necessary to make sure we get to Austin. Everyone has bought in, and ultimately, it’s up to them to perform and make this thing go.”

The Wildcats lead lasted 2/3 of an inning. DeLeon doubled to start the bottom of the fourth. After Addison Sims reached on a fielder’s choice and took second on defensive indifference, DeLeon and Sims each scored on passed balls to give the Broncos a 2-1 lead.

With one out in the fifth, Perkins singled to right field and scored on a three-base error. Shelby Schultz doubled home Shimabukuro, Sims doubled in Shelby Schultz, Casey Schultz singled in Sims and scored on a passed ball, Haley Hoffman singled in courtesy runner Ana Diaz, and Ortiz drove home Hoffman to give Lake an eight-run lead, 9-1.

The Broncos ended the series in the bottom of the sixth inning. DeLeon singled home Shimabukuro and courtesy runner Lili Piedra scored on a passed ball to give Lake the run-rule victory.

Casey Schultz, Shelby Schultz, and DeLeon each had two hits in Lake’s 12-hit attack.

“We had timely hitting when we needed it the most,” McEachern said. “We had some kids that were able to start rallies and the rest of the team followed suit. It’s always nice when the middle to bottom of your lineup can get things going. Our lineup is tough top to bottom.”

Ruiz fired a two-hitter, having walked two and struck out 10.

“We played well enough to win the series,” McEachern said. “I don’t think we excelled on all cylinders, but we know what we need to work on moving forward. Our pitchers did a great job in this series and dominated. Team wise, we will be better next week.”

The Region III Quarterfinal will matchup district winners, as District 22-5A Lake Belton (35-3) and District 21-5A College Station (27-5) collide in Thrall. Game one is Thursday at 6 p.m., game two is Friday at 5 p.m., and game three, if necessary, will be played at noon on Saturday.

“They are a good team, and in the third round for a reason,” McEachern said. “It is definitely going to be a tough series and a challenge that we can hopefully stand up to. Whoever can make the fewest mistakes will win this series. We are going to have to play as a team. We have to execute and play good softball. If we can play selfless at the plate, be dominant on the mound, and defense we will be alright. We know it’s going to be a challenge, and I think we will be mentally ready.”