COLLEGE STATION — After Salado’s 10-3 Thursday-night bashing of No. 5-ranked Woodville in Game 1 of their best-of-three regional semifinals series, Lady Eagles ace hurler Morgan Hill said, “We needed every player in our lineup to come through tonight.”
And that’s what happened.
Salado outhit, outpitched, and outsmarted Woodville.
On defense, Woodville made three errors, Salado made none.
Lady Eagles leadoff hitter Reagan Best set the tone with a double in the top of the first. Best was brought home by an off-the-wall double to right-center from Salado slugger Shyenne Hicks.
“Woodville was scouting us last week when we played against Bruceville-Eddy (in the regional quarterfinals),” said Hicks, Salado’s cleanup hitter. “So I knew they were going to only throw me outside, outside, outside. So all week, I was working on hitting outside pitches.”
In the top of the fourth, with Woodville ahead 2-1, Salado’s Malory Schattle cracked a double. Then Hicks moved Schattle over to third with a hard-hit grounder. Lady Eagle center fielder Josie Norman brought Schattle home with a smash-single to left and the score was tied 2-2.
In the top of the fifth, trailing Woodville 3-2, Salado had singles from Grace Tauferner, Best and Hill. Then Schattle brought them all in with a bases-clearing 185-foot triple that kissed off the left-field wall. Norman then made solid contact with a deep grounder to short which brought home Schattle, and Salado led 6-3.
In the top of the sixth, Best had an RBI, Hicks had two and Salado had itself a 10-3 lead.
Woodville had two more innings to try and catch Salado. But when you stake Morgan Hill to a seven-run lead, the contest is over.
The savvy, senior southpaw wasn’t about to allow Woodville back in this contest.
Heck, Hill didn’t even give up a hit in Woodville’s two final scoreless frames.
Overall, Hill was terrific.
Woodville managed to scrape together three first-inning singles and took a 2-1 lead.
But from then on, Hill, for the most part, was lights out. Mixing in a curveball that moved like a furious bumblebee with a hypersonic fastball, Woodville only managed three scattered hits over the last six innings. Hill struck out the side in the fifth and had eight strikeouts total.
“Having my legs under me because track is over, helped me a lot with the speed of my pitches tonight,” Hill said.
Hill was a state finalist in the 100 hurdles in Austin last week.
“Not having track practice anymore and having my legs back allowed me to push off the mound harder,” Hill said.
Woodville has a good pitcher, freshman Shelby Mixon. Her signature pitch is her changeup. But it was Woodville’s own radio announcers who noticed that, by the fourth inning, Salado had gotten a sense of when that changeup was coming.
On defense, Salado was flawless. At third base, CeCe Cantu made every play hit to her. Meagan Hill, at second base, and Hicks, at first, were also perfect in the field.
Schattle, at shortstop, was spectacular. Among her excellent plays, two were diving stops of sharp-hit balls that she fielded cleanly, remained on her knees, and gunned down the batters at first.
“That’s Malory for you,” Hill said. “She’s so competitive, she’s so good.”
Also having a stellar game in the field was Salado’s freshman catcher Jenna Calder.
In the bottom of the third, with the contest still close, Woodville had runners on first and third and attempted a double-steal. Calder rifled the ball down to Schattle at second base. Then when Woodville speedster Katie Watts broke for home, Schattle ignored the runner at second and tossed a bullet back to Calder. As smooth as the throw was, the plate needed blocking and the tag had to be made.
“Jenna Calder made the perfect block and the perfect tag on that play,” Schattle said. “She deserves a lot of credit there.”
And so No. 10-ranked Salado hopes to close out the series with a win in Game 2, which starts at 4 p.m. today in College Station.
Should Salado play like it did in Game 1 — with clutch hitting, tremendous pitching, and flawless defense — and prevail, there will be no Game 3. Salado would then advance onward to the regional championship, also known as the Elite Eight.
If Woodville wins Game 2, Game 3 would follow.
“We came out here with a lot to prove,” Morgan Hill said of Game 1. “And we did it. Now, we have to keep playing with that same intensity and energy. We need to stay hungry.”
SALADO VS. WOODVILLE
- Game 1 — Thursday: Salado 10, Woodville 3 (Salado leads series 1-0)
- Game 2 — Today, 4 p.m., at Texas A&M, College Station
- Game 3 — (If necessary), today, immediately following Game 2
Tickets — Adults $8, students $5 (Texas A&M will charge $5 for parking today)