Matt Blackburn does this a little bit by design.
Every season, the Belton softball team takes a while to get going because Blackburn likes to experiment with lineups, see what his No. 2 and even No. 3 pitchers have and see what bats are hot going into district play.
Then the Lady Tigers make a run in district or the playoffs.
And his plan is working again. After going 7-9 in non-district, Belton has now won five straight games, including a blowout 22-0 win over Killeen in five innings on Tuesday.
“This is probably the best ball we have played,” Blackburn said. “Beating Temple at Temple kind of gave me an indication of what we were capable of, and with the way we are hitting now, we are going to be tough to beat.”
Especially, when the Lady Tigers have freshman ace Sidney Holman.
She walked three and gave up a hit in the first two innings.
But it did not matter. The Belton (12-9, 5-0 8-5A) bats took care of her.
And then she took care of the Killeen (1-13, 0-5) bats, striking out the side in the final two innings. In five innings of work, she struck out 12, gave up one hit — to Killeen shortstop Mirando Coronado — and walked three.
Holman has now struck out more than 100 batters on the season.
“The most I have had a pitcher (strike out) is 181 in (Allison) Boston’s senior season,” Blackburn said. “We still have nine more games of district to go and I foresee her to break that.
“It is hard to dig stats up from when it was on tablet and chisel, but it is pretty remarkable for a freshman to accumulate those numbers.”
Belton pounded Killeen pitcher Olivia Lacewell from the beginning. Kirsten Whiteside led off the game with a walk, then Alyson Bishoff followed with a two-run single and then Skylar Stewart and Alex Wilson followed with RBI singles to put the Lady Tigers up 4-0.
Kaitlyn Dunahoo then crushed a two-run double into center field and Tiffany Beaver, who had already singled in the inning, ended the scoring in the first inning with an RBI groundout.
“We are hitting the ball really well,” Blackburn said. “The pitcher they have is not bad. She moves the ball well and has good velocity. ... I know it is tough on them, but we are going to hit.”
Belton added six more runs in the second inning. Wilson slapped an RBI single into left field, Shelby Hitt had an RBI groundout and Bishoff crushed an RBI double deep into center to put Belton up 14-0.
In the third, Dunahoo, Whiteside and Bishoff all had RBI singles and Brittany Bass stroked a two-run double to left field as the Lady Tigers put eight more runs on the scoreboard.
“You want to get kids playing time, but it is like the five-run an inning rule in the JV game,” Blackburn said. “It doesn’t teach the kids anything. ...You want kids not to quit ultimately.
“But 22-0 is not good for anybody. I try to get kids at- bats that need at-bats, but after that I am not going to embarrass a team.”