COLLEGE STATION — Salado’s Morgan Hill struck out Woodville’s Mika Maxwell, pumped her fist, grinned a mile-wide smile, jumped into her head coach’s arms and, with that, the Lady Eagles softball team advanced into the regional championships for the first time in school history.
On Saturday at Aggies Softball Stadium, in the biggest softball game of
her high school career, Hill pitched a shutout.
She yielded only two hits in a complete-game, six-strikeout masterpiece.
Hill and her Lady Eagles teammates defeated Woodville 3-0 in Game 2 of their best-of-three regional semifinal series.
On Thursday in Game 1, Salado prevailed 10-3.
“Morgan pitched amazing for us today and closed out the series beautifully,” said Salado head coach Kory Craddick. “She had excellent movement on her pitches. Morgan was determined that they’d have to beat her today — and they couldn’t do it. And that’s no knock on Woodville because they are a very, very good team that had a great season this year (29-5 overall). But Morgan was in command.”
One of Woodville’s hits on Saturday was a first-inning, check-swing, six-foot grounder and the other a fourth-inning blooper that landed in shallow right field.
“I felt like all of my pitches were working well today,” Hill said.
“On Thursday night, my changeup wasn’t working but it was there today. I felt like my curveball had the movement I wanted today and I thought I was throwing pretty hard.”
Salado shortstop Malory Schattle said, “Morgan was phenomenal today. She knows exactly what she wants to do when she pitches and she gets it done.”
“Morgan was in a zone,” said Salado catcher Jenna Calder. “I could tell right from the start that she had everything working.”
Salado (31-7) scored one run in the bottom of the fourth and two more in the sixth.
“This is all so exciting for us to advance,” Hill said. “To play like we did today feels amazing. Today, especially, we played as a family. We had some clutch hits and our defense was, again, fantastic.”
For the second consecutive game, Salado had no errors. Thanks to some nifty fielding by Schattle, second baseman Meagan Hill and first baseman Shyenne Hicks, Salado turned a double play in both the sixth and seventh innings.
The defensive play of the game — maybe of Salado’s year — was made by center fielder Josie Norman.
In the top of the second, Maxwell made solid contact and hit a ball to right-center that looked like a sure double, perhaps a triple. Norman dashed some 25-feet to her left, dove, stuck out her glove and snatched the ball just before it hit lawn.
“SportsCenter,” Craddick said. “That play by Josie deserves to be on ESPN’s SportsCenter. A top play for sure.”
“I just wanted to do whatever I could for my team,” Norman said. “I saw the ball and I didn’t think about anything else but making the dive and catching it. If I just played it safe and stayed back, she’d have been on base. I felt today was a day to show who I really am and what I can do for my team. I just wanted to help my team win.”
And she kept helping.
Norman led off the bottom of the fourth with a sharp single to left field.
Norman advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by CeCe Cantu.
Then Norman broke the scoreless tie by crossing the plate after designated hitter Grace Tauferner smashed a single to right-center.
“It was clutch of Josie to get us started with that hit and then Grace came through with a huge RBI,” Craddick said.
“I thought Grace’s hit was the key at-bat for us today,” said Reagan Best, Salado’s leadoff hitter who had two singles.
“I was just thinking that something needed to change,” Tauferner said.
“Josie got us started with a hit. Their pitcher threw it outside to me and it felt amazing when it left my bat. I saw their right fielder make a dive for it and I was having a heart attack watching her. But it all worked out.”
Ahead 1-0 in the sixth frame, Tauferner hit a hot smash to third and reached safely. The official scorer ruled it an error. Still, Cantu, having reached base earlier on a walk, scored on the play. Later in the inning, Meagan Hill brought home Tauferner — for Salado’s third run — with a deep sacrifice fly out.
“Coach told me before the at-bat that we needed the run and to just make contact and get the ball into the outfield,” Meagan Hill said. “So that’s what I tried to do and it worked out well.”
Schattle, who torched Woodville on Thursday with a double, a triple and three RBIs, had three at-bats Saturday — and didn’t see a pitch anywhere near the plate. Woodville was clearly giving her intentional passes.
“I don’t blame them for walking Malory three straight times,” Craddick said. “How could they pitch to her?
“Not after what she did to them on Thursday.”
Schattle was fine with three straight base-on-balls.
“I do like to hit,” she said. “But it helps my team if they walk me intentionally like that, so I’m perfectly fine with it.”
As for the potential of these Lady Eagles, Schattle didn’t take any intentional pass.
“We’re going all the way,” she said. “The goal is to be state champ.”