Thanks to the poor weather and some scheduling confusion, the Belton Lady Tigers only saw the practice field for 30 minutes this week.
So in preparation for tonight’s pivotal District 8-5A game against rival Temple, the Lady Tigers got their work in during a 14-1, six-inning rout of host Ellison on Thursday.
“It was good to have batting practice,” Blackburn said. “Honestly, we don’t ever simulate live pitching in practice, so the only live pitching we get is in a game ... and to see the ball moving — it won’t be the same speed it’ll be (against Temple ace Lexi Smith) — but at least they were swinging at something moving and putting the bat on it.”
Belton (15-10, 8-1 8-5A), which had 10 different players combine on 15 hits as all nine starters knocked in RBIs, secured its 16th consecutive playoff appearance with the victory.
But there won’t be any time to celebrate, or even acknowledge the accomplishment.
Unlike last season when it took a 6-2 win over Ellison in a play-in game just to reach the playoffs, this season the Lady Tigers are aiming for much more.
“No. These girls have a goal to be district champs and we can’t win it outright, and we know that ... now you’re shooting for co-champs, and you have to take it one game at a time,” Blackburn said. “To lock up a playoff spot, that’s our expectation, not a goal.”
It’d been nearly a week since the Lady Tigers saw real action, after heavy rains swept through Central Texas earlier in the week, forcing Tuesday’s game to be rained out and rescheduled for Thursday.
And while the offense was a little slow going, scattering five runs between the second and fifth innings, the Lady Tigers’ bats finally came alive with a six-run sixth thanks to sound bunting and a couple of solid doubles.
“The bunts and stuff really helped because we started getting on more, I guess, and we got going more,” said senior Alex Wilson, who’s two-run double capped the big sixth inning and earned a four-inning save.
Belton freshman ace Sidney Holman pitched the first two innings simply to get in some live “practice” reps on the mound in preparation for tonight’s pivotal rivalry game against third-place Temple (16-11, 6-3).
“I had no intentions of pitching (Holman) today after the game was called on Tuesday, just because of the Temple game (tonight), but I knew she needed to get a pitching workout in,” Blackburn said. “Her routine is to get in a workout the day before a game.”
Holman got her workout in, throwing 21 pitches (16 for strikes) over the two innings, striking out four without allowing a hit, before Wilson came on in relief and earned the save, allowing three hits, one unearned run and striking out five.
Ellison (5-19, 3-6) scored its lone run in the fourth when sophomore pitcher Bryanna Sanchez beat out a bunt single for the Lady Eagles’ first hit, and then scored on an error by Belton senior shortstop Meredith Langford when a sharp liner from Kennedy Connell ricocheted off her glove and into center field.
Belton got on the board with three runs in the top of the first, taking advantage of three consecutive walks by Sanchez to open the game, as Kirsten Whiteside scored on a wild pitch, Alyson Bishoff contributed an RBI double and Holman added an RBI single before pinch-runner Brittany Bass was caught stealing to end the inning.
Holman added another RBI single in a two-run third before being pulled, and Makayla Hernandez followed with an RBI single of her own in the frame. Tiffany Beaver was 3 for 4 with an RBI while Bishoff and Skyler Stewart each contributed two hits apiece.