By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
Sports Editor’s note: This is the second part of a three-part series highlight Belton sports and teams from 2014. The Best of Moments ran in the December 25, 2014’s sports page and The Best of Teams Part II will run in January 8, 2015’s sports page.
There were many teams in Belton and in the area that had standout seasons and some that are in the improvement stage. With Belton High School, University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, Belton Youth Baseball Association, Belton Youth Softball Association and CenTex Rollergirls having teams that have done well in 2014, we have divided the year into two separate team features over two weeks.
In the Dec. 25 issue, we featured Moments of 2014. There were many, but the selected were quite a few. Our Jan. 1 and Jan. 8 issues will follow suit.
Without further adieu, here is the first part of the two-part series featuring the Teams of 2014:
Belton Baseball (District 8-5A Champions, Bi-District Finalists)
The 2014 Belton Tigers’ baseball team had that combination of great pitching, stellar defense, good team speed and timely hitting. The staff pitching staff consisted of Jared Janczak, Tanner Frick, Kolton Boyd, Dustin Tish and Shane Stafford. Add Jayme Kidder and Aaron Reed into relief roles and it was a well-rounded staff.
Around the horn of the infield you had a wealth of talent experience, starting at the hot corner with Mark Herrington, Walker Winders at shortstop, Chase Cryer at second base and Chase Sortor. With Joey Hogan behind the plate handling the pitching staff, the infield was a tight-knit unit.
The outfield was a solid one as well, with Janczak, Shane Stafford, Trent Stafford, Coby Potvin and solid reserve pool that were game changers in the field.
Offensively, the team had one of the best offenses in the area, especially in the top seven in the order. Potvin led off in the order and was one of the most dangerous leadoff hitters, with an astronomical on-base percentage because of his bunting and speed. Herrington was your prototypical number two hitter, who could lay down a bunt, find a gap with a liner or get picky and take a free pass. Winders was the three hitter who had a knack to get a clutch hit when needed and Cryer’s bat was one no pitcher wanted to face in the cleanup slot.
Insert Janczak in anywhere between the two and five spots and have the power of Shane Stafford and Joey Hogan in the six or seven holes and you have rough trip through the majority of the lineup.
That’s not to say the eight and nine spots in the lineup were any less dangerous. Jacob Alexander, Trent Stafford, Aaron Reed, Dustin Tish, Jayme Kidder and others added pop to the back end of the lineup setting up many nights in district where “Pitch, Field, Hit, Run, Score, Win” was the modus operandi on many nights.
Despite another grinding series with South Grand Prairie in Bi-Districts that was another, hair pulling, nail-biting three-game classic that saw the Tigers on the downside of it again in 2014, the year was a success.
Janczak won his second consecutive District 8-5A MVP Award. Jayme Kidder was voted as the Tigers’ Most Valuable Player. Janczak, Kidder, Hogan, Frick, Cryer, Herrington, Potvin, Winders, Boyd, Tish, Sortor, Winders, Shane Stafford and Trent Stafford all received District 8-5A accolades, which shows you the depth and talent of the 2014 team.
The 2015 will look different with the graduation of Janczak, Kidder, Hogan, Cryer, Herrington, Winders and others. This upcoming season looks promising, with the Staffords, Potvin, Frick, Reed, Sortor, Boyd and other underclassmen from 2014 stepping into roles in 2015.
Belton Football (6-6 overall, 3-3 District 12-6A, fourth place, Area Finalist)
Tiger Football in 2014 took on a new direction under first-year head coach/athletic director Bob Shipley.
Armed with new offensive coordinator Sam Skidmore, defensive coordinator Phil Shaffer and a bevy of new position coaches, Shipley’s Tigers got to work in spring practice and made a state appearance in 7-On-7, taking on Class 6A-Region I inaugural champion Allen in the first pool game. Things were looking up for the Tigers early on.
Summer practice and the preseason scrimmage with Montgomery showed fans promise of a new season.
The season started with a pair of big Waco wins (48-0 over Waco University and 40-10 over Waco High) were sandwiched around a pair of losses to Pflugerville Hendrickson (49-21) and Round Rock Stony Point (27-0).
District play started with a 39-31 to Shoemaker, in which the Tigers gave up 374 rushing yards and six touchdowns to Derrick Thomas, a wide receiver that converted to quarterback. That road loss was followed by a 42-21 loss at home to Copperas Cove that was decided by four Belton turnovers that resulted in 28 of the Bulldawgs’ points.
At that point, Belton was 2-4 overall and 0-2 in district. Something had to give and Shipley sought answers.
It’s interesting that a pooch kick and a crushing hit completely turned around the season.
With 2:34 to play and the Tigers leading 33-32 at Killeen having just scored on a Kavan Johnson 39-yard run, Blake Odell pooch kicked the ball and Richard Kimble laid out a Killeen returner, resulting in a fumble that the Tigers recovered.
The game did not end with that play, as Killeen had one more drive in which the Tigers survived a scary ending. Dante Ellis-Thomas, a solid wide receiver for the Roos, caught Kenny Arnold’s final pass of the game on Belton’s 30-yard line in quadruple coverage and broke free. Garret Trout and Cody Garrett ran him down on the Belton 26 to end the game. The Tigers went into the bye week with homework to do and time to heal.
The fortune of the Tigers continued on homecoming, as Kavan Johnson’s four-touchdown night paced Belton over Ellison 38-6, putting the team at 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the district race.
After a tough night at Midway (49-19 loss on Oct. 31), it all came down to the final regular season/district matchup with Harker Heights. Both teams needed the win to lock down the fourth and final playoff position.
Belton scored 18 points in the final three minutes of the first half, overcoming an 11-point deficit, to take a 28-21 lead. The Tigers led 45-27 with 7:21 remaining in the game before the Knights scored 13 points in the next 2:26 to make the score 45-40 with 4:55 remaining.
The Tigers fumbled on the Heights’ 45-yard line with 2:26 remaining, giving Heights one last shot at a playoff spot. Troy Smith, the Knights’ great dual-threat quarterback, guided the offense to the Belton 35 with 1:32 remaining on the clock. On fourth down and 12, Smith rolled out to his left and let a pass fly towards double-coverage. Hunter Garrett intercepted the ball on the Belton 29 and tumbled out of bound into the Belton bench area. The area immediately turned from Garrett hopping to his feet to 50 Tigers swarming around Garrett, celebrating. The scene in the student section and the stands was much the same. Belton bled the clock, clinched fourth place and got ready to take on Garland at McLane Stadium in Waco.
Not many outside the Belton program thought the Tigers had a chance to win against the Owls. The team, however, never let down and had the doubters proved wrong early. The Tigers led 21-7 at the end of the first quarter and the student section did not sit down the rest of the half, as Belton went on to score 14 more points and led 35-14.
The Tigers scored 50 points in the game, marking the first time Belton reached half-a-hundred since Sept. 2, 2011, in a 58-14 win over Austin High. Belton won over Garland 50-27.
Following the game, linebacker Tevin Jones jumped over the wall at McLane Stadium and up into the Belton student section. Shipley gathered his players together, took out of his pocket a folded media clipping and shouted: “They never gave us a chance. You proved them wrong tonight!”
Although the Tigers ended up losing to number 4-ranked Dallas Skyline in a thunderstorm-marred game, in which the start was delayed four-and-a-half hours, Belton’s season was a success. A four-game turnaround and to go 2013’s 2-8 finish to a Bi-District Championship, the Tigers hung their helmets up proudly in 2014. Although the team graduates 30 seniors, there is a bumper crop of underclassmen coming up from a junior varsity program that was 18-2 and won dual district titles in 2014 and also a solid freshman class. The outlook is a good one for 2015.
Belton Softball (District 8-5A Champions, Area Finalists)
Head coach Matt Blackburn’s Lady Tigers’ softball teams has been one of Belton’s most consistent programs over the past five seasons. 2014 was another stellar year, both offensively and defensively for the Lady Tigers.
Possessing one of the most lethal lineups and some of the best depth in Central Texas, quite a few of the Lady Tigers saw time in backup and platoon roles. But it didn’t dampen the mood, as the roaring Lady Tigers had a break-even start at 3-3 following the competitive Bryan/College Station Tournament.
Belton ran into a rough patch at the Round Rock Tournament, with his team going 1-4, though playing hard and didn’t catch a break.
Sidney Holman’s perfect game and the Lady Tigers’ offense started the District 8-5A schedule with a 19-0 win to lift Belton’s record to 5-7 going into their own tournament, one in which has been tough on the home team.
A 3-2 showing in the Belton Tournament launched the Lady Tigers into a tear in district play, winning games 13-0, 9-2, 10-0, 18-0, 17-1 and 12-2. In the first half of the district schedule, the Lady Tigers went 7-0 and outscored opposition 98-5.
The second half of district started well, as 15-1 and 10-1 decisions had the Lady Tigers outscoring the district 123-7 in district play. The only blemish came in a 5-4, eight-inning loss to Temple on April 4. They ripped through the rest of the schedule 8-2, 10-0, 20-0 and clinched the district with a 7-5 win over Midway.
They went 13-1 in district play, outscoring teams 172-17.
Belton dropped game one to Midlothian 4-3 in Waco in the Bi-District round, as defense hurt the Lady Tigers. A controversial call in the fifth inning kept the Lady Tigers from climbing out of a 4-1 hole in the fifth inning, as a blown call at second base on a steal attempt by Kaitlyn Dunahoo (she was called out by the second base umpire standing behind the play, as Dunahoo slid inside the bag and clearly beat the throw) was followed up by a line-shot single by Meredith Lusby, keeping a critical run from scoring. Blackburn conceded that the defense was not there in the game and that although Holman pitched her best game of the season, Midlothian got away with one.
The Lady Tigers went to Midlothian the next night and crushed the Lady Panthers 14-0, in part to Lusby’s 225-foot shot over the center field fence.
The win forced a Saturday morning game three at Lady Tiger Field to a standing-room-only crowd on Prom Saturday.
Belton took an 8-1 lead after two-and-a-half innings before a grand slam by Alyson Bishoff over the left center field wall set off a celebration reminiscent of the grand slam by Shelby Hitt against Temple earlier in the season. The Lady Tigers won 12-2 and advanced to the Area round against defending Class 5A State Championship Lewisville Lady Farmers.
Belton fell 4-0 in game one and 11-3 in game two, both held at Lady Tiger Field in Glen Rose. The two losses ended the Lady Tigers’ season at 21-13.
Sydney Andrews, Meredith Lusby, Shelby Hitt, Kaitlyn Dunahoo, Bekah Alcozer, Brittany Bass, Makayla Hernandez, Alyson Bishoff, Kaitlyn Jones, Sidney Holman and Skylar Stewart all were named to the District 8-5A All-District Team. Stewart earned District 8-5A Offensive MVP (hit .474, 9 HR, 46 RBI, 45 hits, 30 runs, 10 doubles), Holman received District 8-5A Defensive MVP (was 20-12, 2.66 ERA in 179 IP, setting a new school-record with 218 strikeouts) and Jones earned District 8-5A Newcomer of the Year (hit .431 with 1 HR, 19 RBI, hit .647 with runners in scoring position).
The team hit .379 with 32 home runs (new school-record), 263 runs batted in, scored 300 runs in 34 games and hit an eye-popping .419 (155-of-370) with runners in scoring position.
The team lost Bishoff (now at Abilene Christian), the school’s all-time home runs leader, to graduation. They also lost Hernandez (now at McLennan Community College), Dunahoo (attending college at Texas State) and Kacey Schescke (now at Cisco Junior College) to graduation. But with 14 projected returning players and several junior varsity players and incoming freshmen to push for positions on varsity, the cupboard is not bare by any means for Blackburn.
UMHB Volleyball (25-6, 11-0 at Mayborn Campus Center, ASC Champions)
UMHB Volleyball was one of three Crusader teams that captured ASC Championships in 2014 (Mens’ Golf, Football).
Head coach Rob Frost came back to UMHB after briefly accepting the head coaching position at Division I Abilene Christian.
The Crusaders won their first three games of the season at the UT-Dallas Tournament, were 2-2 in the Cal Lutheran Tournament and were 3-1 in Trinity Tournament.
UMHB won eight straight ASC games to start the conference tournament before a hard-fought, five set loss to East Texas Baptist stopped the streak. The Lady Cru won four straight after the loss, losing only two sets before being shutout 3-0 at UT-Dallas. UMHB finished the regular season out with three straight wins, only losing one set.
The Lady Cru hosted the ASC Tournament Nov. 6 through 8. They dominated UT-Tyler in straight sets and survived a five-set thriller against UT-Dallas, setting up a championship match against the Lady Comets.
The championship match was a hotly contested one, with UMHB winning the first two sets 25-23 and 26-24. The Lady Comets captured the third set 25-23. Trailing 9-6 in the fourth set, the Lady Crusaders turned the sword on UT-Dallas, as kills from Lauren Powell, Kendall Pye, Abby Voskuil and Bianca Patterson set up UMHB on a 13-4 run and put them in the lead 19-13. The teams traded points before Pye’s kill ended the set 25-20, the match 3-1, secured the ASC Championship and a trip to Thousand Oaks, Calif. for the First Round of the NCAA Division III Championships.
The run was short-lived as Clairmont-Mudd-Scripps Colleges, the team that dealt UMHB their lone loss at the Trinity Tournament, handed them their playoff loss in a hard-fought, five-set loss to end their season.
UMHB finished an impress 25-6, 14-2 in ASC play and were undefeated in 11 games at the Mayborn Campus Center. Patterson, from Harker Heights, was the lone senior on the squad. So Frost’s team is looks like a sure-fire contender on paper for 2015.
Belton Golf (Boys-District 8-5A Champions, Second in Regionals, Girls-runner-up District 8-5A)
The Tigers and Lady Tigers golf programs had high marks under head coaches Jim Hellums and Lauren Marx respectively.
The boys, led by 2013 Class 5A State Champion Andrew Paysse, breezed to the district championship. At regionals, Matthew Lawyer qualified for the Class 5A State Tournament and Paysse fell a shot short to end his bid at a repeat. Lawyer finished mid-way in the pack at state.
The boys have played well this fall and expect to be a major player at the District 12-6A Tournament this spring.
The girls held the lead on day one of the District 8-5A Tournament. But brutal winds on the second day of the tournament upwards of 40 miles-per-hour knocked the Lady Tigers off-course and ended the tournament as the runners-up to Waco Midway.
The Lady Tigers struggled at regionals, with Madi Smith fighting a bad ankle injury and brutal conditions in Lubbock. The team finished in 16th place at regionals.
The team returned everyone from the 2013-2014 team. With a bumper crop of solid in-coming freshman for 2014-2015 in place, the Lady Tigers are poised for a run to claim the Inaugural District 12-6 Title in the spring.
UMHB Golf (Men-ASC Champions, Women-ASC Runner-up, NCAA Division III Runner-Up)
It’s hard not to say the Belton hasn’t been the epicenter of golf, with the success of the Belton Tigers’ program and UMHB’s solid run of late.
UMHB has been quietly building a golf powerhouse, under head coaches Aaron Rodeffer and Jackie Ralston.
On the boys’ side, they finished in the top five in seven of their last eight tournaments, including a first-place finish at the American Southwest Conference Championships with a three-day score of 305-314-291=910.
Robby Schimmels not only won the conference champion as part of the team, but also won the ASC Individual Mens’ Championship with a three-day score of 75-77-67=219.
The Cru finished in 24th place at the Division III National Championships and missed the cut. But Pablo Mena Medrano made the individual cut and shot a four-day total of 300 (72-72-81-75). His 225 through 72 holes set UMHB’s school-record for that span.
The Crusaders are off to a good start in 2014-2015, finishing third, fourth (twice) and fifth in their first four tournaments.
The Lady Cru golfers, under the first-year tutelage of Jackie Ralston, won three tournaments and finished runner-up in four others prior to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament in Howey-In-The-Hills, Fla.
UMHB finished with a four-day score of 1,280 (325-316-319-320) to finished as National Runner-up, one year following their 2013 National Championship and fifth runner-up finish in program history.
McKenzie Ralston finished second overall with a four-round total of 305 (77-79-72-77) and Taylor O’Rear finished tied for 10th overall with a score of 318 (77-82-84-75). Both finished as Women’s Golf Coaches Association Honorable Mention All-Americans.
O’Rear, Victoria Thane and Kelly Gonyea have graduated. The 2014-2015 team is already on a good pace, winning two and placing second and third in its first four tournaments.
Belton Swimming (Boys-District 12-5A Championship, 12th place at Region III Meet, Girls-District 12-5A Championship, second place Region III Meet)
The Belton Swimming program completed another successful campaign in 2013-2014, collecting back-to-back dual championships. This time, the girls won in decisive in fashion and the boys did it in exciting fashion, winning the 400-yard medley relay to secure the championship to end the meet.
The girls swam to an impressive second place finish in a tough region, finishing with 218 points (Allen won region with 356 points).
The boys finished 12th with 91 points, with Plano winning the region with 269 points.
The Belton Swimming program changed hands from Mike Burt to Patrick Henry this past summer. The teams have had an impressive Fall 2014 and look to push for a district championship later this month.
UMHB Basketball (Men: 17-9, 15-7 ASC, Conference Semis. Women: 18-10, 16-6 ASC, ASC Championship Runner-Up)
The UMHB Basketball program made strides on women’s side in 2013-14 and had another solid year on the men’s side.
Coach Ken DeWeese hit two major career milestones in early 2014, picking up UMHB win 300 and career win 700.
The team struggled to find itself in the middle of the season, at one point at 9-8 overall and 7-7 in ASC play. The Cru picked up the pace, winning their final eight games by an average score of 78-63 to qualify for the conference tournament.
In the ASC quarterfinals, UMHB and Louisiana College played a hard-fought 34-33 first half. LC pulled away with a 47-38 second half and ended the Cru’s season 81-71.
Coach Lisa Curliss-Taylor’s Lady Crusaders were forced to find themselves after a 2-6 start, but showed signs of strength in wins over Sul Ross and Concordia. They went on a tear, winning seven in a row and 13 of their last 16 to qualify for the ASC Tournament with a 15-7 record.
Following wins over Ozarks and UT-Dallas, the Lady Cru fell to the Lady Patriots of UT-Tyler 68-56.
Both teams have started well in 2014-2015. As of Dec. 29, the Cru stand at 5-3 and the Lady Cru stand at 6-2.
Belton Youth Softball Association (Caliente-10U State Champions, Smash-15U State Runner-Up, Lady Longhorns-8U Coach Pitch Runner-Up)
The Belton Youth Softball Association had several representatives in the Texas Teenage Baseball/Softball Association State Tournaments this summer.
Caliente stayed undefeated, then won the second game of a winner-takes-all affair against the Hillsboro Hotshots for the 10U State crown.
Smash endured a third-game loss to Mildred, then survived a three-game gauntlet on the path to meeting up with the Bruceville-Eddy Legends in Denison.
The Legends ended up as state champions, but the Smash finished as a solid runner-up. The Lady Longhorns’ 15U team, Belton’s other entrant into the state tournament, ran into a pair of hot teams from Stephenville and Alto, ending their stay early.
The Lady Longhorns’ 8U team endured bad weather and late night games in Axtell to bring home state runner-up honors. A pair of tough losses to Westphalia, the second of which was in the championship game, gave the Lady Longhorns a well-earned runner-up trophy.
The Belton Doe’s 6U T-Ball team also had a great showing in Holland and finished well.
Belton will host a TTAB/S State Tournament, with the 10U tournament being held at Chisholm Trail Park in July.
Belton Youth Baseball Association (Belton Aces 8U Machine Pitch State Runner-Up, Belton A’s 10U Fourth Place, Belton Angels 12U Fourth Place, Belton Cubs 12U Seventh Place)
Although BYBA did not have a state champion in 2014, the Belton Aces’ 8U came in second place in the Texas Teenage Baseball 8U Machine Pitch that had 239 teams in it.
The Aces were undefeated for the entire season until they ran into a hot team from Brownsboro-Mineola-Chandler. After falling behind 8-2 in game one, the Aces scratched out six runs in the sixth inning before being nipped in the bottom of the sixth 9-8, forcing a winner-take-all scenario.
The Aces took an early 5-2 lead before BMC rallied for seven runs in two innings took take a 9-5 lead. Belton rallied to tie the game at 9-9 in the bottom of the fourth. BMC scratched out a run in the fifth inning and the Aces couldn’t push across the tying run over the next six outs, falling to BMC and gladly taking the second place trophy home to Belton.
Aces’ coaches Tommy Bruce and Mark Trovinger not only had this team, but a pair of 12U teams that faced each other at the 12U TTAB State Tournament held this last summer at Heritage Park . Their teams, the Cubs and the Angels respectively, had an impressive showdown against one another, but in an elimination game.
The game ended up being the most witnessed in the tournament. The pitching duel between the Angels’ Brian Shadrick and the Cubs’ Will Wallace was easily the lowest scoring game and most tense of the tournament. In the end, the Angels nipped the Cubs 2-1. The Angels went on to beat Troy and lose to Rusk. The end result of the tournament: the Angels finished fourth and the Cubs finished seventh.
The 10U Belton A’s, coached by Tia McKee, finished in fourth place. But the memories of this tournament will not be soon forgotten by neither the A’s nor their parents.
A storm hit Emory during their game with the Temple Aces on Wednesday evening of the tournament, packing winds gusting to 70 miles-per-hour. It was a huge scare for the players and the coaches, as McKee and team went scrambling for cover.
“It was something I will never forget,” said McKee, who was also the president of BYBA. “I just remember standing in the third base coaches box and looking up at the sky and watch the clouds surround us. The umpires just kept saying ‘it never rains in Emory, it will go around us.’ Well, as luck would have it, it didn’t. One minute I am standing in the coach’s box at third and things were still. The next minute, I nearly got blown over. It was really scary.”
The Belton Storm 6U T-Ball team and Belton Rockies 14U team played in the state tournaments for their respective age groups as well. The Storm went 2-2 in Cameron and Rockies were swept in Hillsboro.
The Texas Teenage Baseball will hold its first 10U State Tournament for the Open Base division at Heritage Park this summer
Next Week: Part II of the Teams of 2014. Teams to be featured: Belton Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball, Belton Cross Country, Belton Track and Field, Belton Powerlifting, Belton Boys’ and Girls’ Soccer, Belton Tennis, Belton Volleyball, UMHB Football, UMHB Baseball, UMHB Softball, UMHB Tennis, UMHB Mens’ and Womens’ Soccer, and UMHB Softball.