WACO — Cassie Crabtree feels the best is yet to come.
Coming off a disheartening loss approximately 12 hours earlier, Lampasas rebounded to put together a strong showing against No. 2 Kennedale, eliminating the Lady Kats on Saturday morning at Midway High School.
Despite producing a season-defining 9-8 victory in Game 3 of the Class 3A area series, Lampasas’ head coach believes her team is far from peaking. More importantly, her players feel the same way.
“The best part is we haven’t played Lady Badgers softball yet,” Crabtree said. “We hit today a little bit, but we weren’t error-free, and defensively, we weren’t there. If we put our three phases of the game together — pitching, hitting and defense — we’re unstoppable, and they know that.”
After a slow start in Game 2 led to a lopsided loss, dooming Lampasas’ opportunity to complete a sweep, the Lady Badgers (24-8) came out strong in the tiebreaker, holding a 9-4 advantage after four innings.
Kennedale — a regional finalist in 2013 — did not concede, however, scoring four runs in the fifth inning to pull within a run, but Lampasas freshman pitcher Sienna Lawson came in to close the contest and did not give up a hit as she faced seven batters during the final two innings.
Although Lawson served as the Lady Badgers’ primary pitcher this season, she admitted taking the mound with everything on the line was an intense experience, especially as her team was clinging to a one-run lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” said Lawson, who recorded a pair of strikeouts. “I was nervous when Coach told me I was going in, and I was like, ‘I have got to do this.’ It was so nerve-wracking, but we got through it and came out with a big win.”
Leadoff hitter Alyssa Maldonado got things going for Lampasas, delivering a single in her first at-bat before her sister Marisa Maldonado’s sacrifice fly scored the game’s first run.
The Lady Kats (23-8) answered with a three-run first inning, but the Lady Badgers capitalized on a pair of Kennedale errors, scoring four runs to reclaim the lead.
Highlighted by Marisa Maldonado’s solo home run, Lampasas repeated the feat in the fourth inning, increasing its advantage to 9-4.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm coming into the game,” Marisa Maldonado said. “We knew we had to win this. We had to.”
The five-run cushion did not hold, though, as Kennedale third baseman Carson Campbell connected on a two-RBI single, and two batters later, one of Lampasas’ three errors led to a pair of runs, pulling the Lady Kats to within a run, 9-8, but the Lady Badgers’ defense held.
Nevertheless, the final two innings were full of anticipation, according to Crabtree.
“In the sixth inning, they had their one, two and three hitters up,” she said, “and those were the biggest outs Sienna Lawson has ever made in her life. Those hitters were killers against us, and when she got them, that was huge.”
Lampasas climbed as high as fourth in the state polls during the regular season before struggling in District 8-3A play to finish as a third seed. Now, the Lady Badgers have a chance to earn a measure of redemption as they face district-rival Brownwood in the regional quarterfinals.
The Lady Lions, who won both games against Lampasas this season, upset No. 4 Burkburnett 1-0 on Friday to advance.
The schedule has yet to be determined, but if Crabtree has her way, the teams will play a series.
“Their pitcher is kind of ill right now, so I’m going to try and make her pitch as much as possible,” she said. “Their pitcher is their team. They live and die by their pitcher, and if we can tire her out, then maybe we can exploit the situation.”
Contact Clay Whittington at email@example.com