BELTON — A couple of summers ago Waco Midway softball coach Ed Trochim met Abilene Christian coach Bobby Reeves at a softball clinic. Trochim mentioned to Reeves that many football athletes are leaving high school early to join their future college teams, and the Midway coach jokingly asked if Reeves might be able to convince then-Belton ace pitcher Sydney Holman to do the same for softball.

Holman is now gone, but Trochim is still likely wishing the same fate for a few more Belton players as sophomore pitcher Madison Cotton tossed her first complete game and the Lady Tigers took an early lead in the District 8-6A standings with a 3-2 win over Midway at Tiger Field on Monday night.

“You’ve got to hand it to their pitcher,” Trochim said. “She was outstanding. She hung in there and got some great defense behind her and got the job done.”

Cotton’s game plan in the circle was simply to work the ball low on the corners and rely on her teammates.

“Last year I got to watch what the (Midway girls) like to do,” said Cotton, who was pitching against Midway for the first time. “By watching them, I know what they don’t like. I just tried to throw strikes and let my defense back me up.”

Cotton had four strikeouts and did rely heavily on her defense, primarily shortstop Meredith Lusby, the lone senior on the Lady Tigers roster, who had six assists — half in the first two innings — and a putout.

Still the 12th-ranked Lady Tigers (15-4, 4-0) had to play from behind early after Midway’s Sami Martinez singled in Faith Fernandez, who had walked and advanced to third on a base hit by Camryn Collier.

But shortly after reaching on the single, Martinez was picked off on a throw by catcher Bethany Edwards, who an inning earlier had thrown out Rhein Trochim trying to steal.

“Last year, with Sydney in the circle, Bethany didn’t have to throw much,” Belton coach Matt Blackburn said. “Sydney didn’t let many runners reach base. But I’ve been saying all along Bethany is good. No doubt about it.”

The Midway coach took notice too.

“That’s a D1 catcher right there,” he said. “Not too many catchers can throw Rhein out. Those pickoffs slowed us down.”

Added Lusby, who was on the receiving end of the first caught stealing throw: “It’s a rarity when we get her out. So that hypes us up. It’s the most awesome thing when it happens.”

After Midway’s run in the second, Cotton retired seven straight batters before Collier got her second hit of the night in the fifth with one out. She was stranded at first, though, after a foul out and a ground out.

Belton then took the lead in the bottom of the inning. McKenzie Bartlett led off with a single. Midway pitcher Jazmine Gendorf then got back-to-back strikeouts, but during the outs, Bartlett stole second and took third on a wild pitch. Avery Drake walked then Madison Bartlett tied the game with a single to left. Edwards gave the Lady Tigers the lead with a single to left and Caleigh Robinson singled to center for an insurance run.

Cotton admitted that took some pressure off of her, admitting she was nervous the 1-0 lead might be enough for Midway (12-7, 3-1).

“It was in my head,” she said. “I was a little nervous but was just trying to think ‘let’s get us out of here and let’s get our bats going.’”

Cotton gave up a run in the next inning, but worked out of trouble again, and after a leadoff walk in the seventh, got three straight groundouts to give the Lady Tigers sole possession of first place.

“These games (against Midway) in years past have decided the district championship,” Blackburn said. “A game like this is a playoff atmosphere. As a coach, this is what you want to see. How can your team compete under pressure? And you saw how much talent was out there on both sides of the ball. That’s what makes this special.”

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