MIDLOTHIAN — After a terrible game to open its playoff series against Flower Mound on Thursday, the Belton softball team altered its strategy for Game 2 on Friday.
It involved the Lady Tigers literally fighting fire with fire, and matching the strong Lady Jaguars hit for hit.
The Lady Tigers were able to do their part, but in a game of hot bats the Lady Jaguars were able to bring more heat.
The run-filled game ended with Flower Mound scoring a run in the bottom of the seventh inning in a 10-9 victory over Belton to take the best-of-three Class 5A area series 2-0 at the Midlothian Softball Complex.
Pinch hitter Allie Smith drove in the winning run on a grounder in which there was no chance to throw Sydney Springfield out at the plate. Springfield led off the frame with a single to left and advanced to third when a throw by Belton third baseman Brittany Bass on a sacrifice bunt by Alex Jennings was off-target.
The seventh inning ended a drama-filled contest in which the lead changed four times. While the loss ended the season for Belton (20-13-1), the Lady Tigers literally went down swinging, with a 14-10 edge in hits. The Lady Tigers also rebounded from a 16-2 loss in Thursday’s Game 1, a game coach Matt Blackburn called embarrassing and a cause for soul searching earlier in the day.
“We didn’t do anything physically during our athletic period. I just wanted to feeling inside of what they needed to do to make an impact,” Blackburn said. “This wasn’t an embarrassment at all.”
Bass extended the game with a two-out single on a 2-2 count in the top of the seventh that scored Kaitlin Jones. Jones ran for Alyson Bishoff, who had one-out double to left. The rally in the bottom of the seventh sends Flower Mound (24-8-1) into a Region I quarterfinal against arch rival Flower Mound Marcus or Mansfield Timberview. Marcus and Timberview play the third and deciding game of their series today in Fort Worth.
The Lady Tigers could take pride in having a much better game against Flower Mound ace Annelise Oswalt, but could also be kicking themselves for letting a 6-1 lead get away.
The Lady Tigers built that lead in the top of the third courtesy of home runs by Bekah Alcozer and Alyson Bishoff.
After Tiffany Beaver reached on a dropped third strike and Alex Wilson hit a single to right Alcozer hit a towering shot to left-center. Ashley Holman followed with a single to right, the same direction Bishoff sent her round tripper.
Bishoff’s blast knocked Oswalt out of the game temporarily. After throwing a three-hitter in Game 1, Oswalt allowed five earned runs, eight hits and one walk over 3 1/3 innings with three strikeouts.
Taylor Nabors came as a relief pitcher in the third, but Oswalt (14-6) returned in the seventh for a save opportunity. Bass and Bishoff turned that into a victory for Oswalt. Bishoff said the Lady Tigers did not make physical adjustments to Oswalt’s pitching.
“It was a lot more confidence,” Bishoff said. “It was all mental.”
Unfortunately for the Lady Tigers the Lady Jaguars struck back with a vengeance in the bottom of the third, scoring six runs to take the lead. Flower Mound’s first eight batters reached base, including RBI singles by Kelly Powell, Nabors and Mauri Jamele. The Lady Jaguars went ahead on a RBI single to center by Sydney Springfield, who frustrated Belton hitter all game by going 4-for-4.
Belton starting pitcher Sidney Holman lasted two innings in taking a no-decision. The freshman allowed six earned runs, six hits and two walks with no strikeouts.
Wilson (3-5) relieved Holman and took the loss despite a respectable outing, allowing one earned run, four hits and one walk over 4 1/3 innings.
“I don’t know what we could have done with our pitching against their hitting,” Blackburn said. “They are that good.”
The Lady Tigers did recover to tie the game at 7-7 in the fifth. Beaver reached base on an infield hit and came home on a Wilson double to right-center.
Belton went back ahead 8-7 in the fifth. After Shelby Hitt beat out an infield single and Bass hit a double to right-center Kirsten Whiteside smacked a RBI single to center. Flower Mound tied the game up in the bottom of the frame as errors by Belton third baseman Bass and right fielder Beaver on a Kellie Wanhanen grounder allowed Alex Jennings to score from first.
Bass did prevent further damage in the inning, successful running down two batters between bases. Bass also went 3-for-4 at the plate.
“Brittany was hard on herself for the error in the seventh, but I was proud of her,” Blackburn said. “She prevented them from scoring more runs.:
Flower Mound took a 9-8 lead in the sixth. After Texas Tech signee Ashley Fultz walked she scored on an Oswalt double to the left-field fence.
The Lady Tigers took a gamble in the top of the first that didn’t pay off after Beaver smacked a triple to right-center. Wilson followed with a two-out walk and continued to run to second. When a throw was made to get Wilson out Beaver bolted for home, but Flower Mound second baseman Fultz threw Beaver out to end the inning.
Flower Mound was able to take advantage of its scoring opportunity in the bottom of the first. After Kelly Powell drew a one-out walk she went to second on a Fultz groundout, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored when Belton shortstop Wilson couldn’t grab a grounder by Oswalt.
Belton took advantage of a couple Flower Mound errors to even the score in the second, starting with Alcozer reaching on a fielding error by shortstop Jamele. After Alcozer advanced to second on a wild pitch she scored on a Hitt single to left that got by left fielder Powell. Hitt, Beaver and Wilson had two hits each. Flower Mound center fielder Christy Lisenby, a Baylor signee, finished 1-for-4.
The Lady Tigers lose just four seniors for the 2014 team, but after the game Bishoff shared hugs, tears and well wishes for seniors such as Wilson. Bishoff said the leadership of seniors such as Whiteside, Meredith Langford and Jenny Newberry will be difficult to replace, leadership that had a balance between work and fun.
“They were always leaders when times were good or bad,” Bishoff said. “We always had a good time this year.”