WEST — With a losing record after a fourth-place finish in District 7-6A, Irving Nimitz played the conventional wisdom by opting for a one-game playoff instead of a three-game series against District 8-6A champion Belton in the Class 6A bi-district round, hoping to get lucky in that one game.
Or maybe the Lady Vikings just didn’t want to be embarrassed more than once.
Belton dominated from the start with a five-run first inning en route to an 12-1 victory in only five innings Friday night.
The Lady Tigers (28-6-1) will face Wylie, which swept Southlake Carroll in a best-of-three series, in next week’s area round at a time and place to be determined.
“As a team, you always want to score in the first inning,” Belton coach Matt Blackburn said. “It takes pressure off your pitching staff and frees me up to get some quality playing time for everybody.”
After Lady Tigers starting pitcher Madison Cotton breezed through the top of the first, Belton’s offense went to work in the bottom of the frame.
Avery Drake tripled to start the inning and was driven in on a single by Madison Ward. Bethany Edwards followed with a singled and Madison Bartlett walked to load the bases for Izzy Gutierrez, who drilled a line-drive double to right to bring home all three runners.
“I just wanted to hit it to the right side to get in as many runners as I could,” Gutierrez said. “So when I found that gap, I was just really happy I could do my job.”
Gutierrez advanced to third base on the throw to the plate and scored on a sacrifice fly by Harley Staton.
“I knew coming in here we were probably going to win,” Gutierrez said. “But I was still a little tense. Getting five runs in the first inning was like, ‘OK. I can relax now. We are going to keep going.’”
After a scoreless second, the Lady Tigers added three in the third. Gutierrez doubled in Bartlett, who led off the inning with a double, and scored on a fielder’s choice before McKenzie Bartlett stole home on a delayed double-steal to make it 8-0.
Belton tacked on four in the fourth, highlighted by Paige Nunes’ two-run homer that cleared the fence in left field.
Cotton, Taylor Tubbs and Hannah Kelley dominated in the circle. Cotton allowed a first-inning single and struck out four through two innings of work. Tubbs allowed two hits in the fourth and gave up Nimitz’s lone run but struck out three in two innings, and Kelley finished the Lady Vikings (8-18) by allowing just two hits and striking out two in the fifth.
“I think we are really confident,” Gutierrez said. “We’ve known since the beginning of the year we have something special because we didn’t graduate a lot of players last year. And we just want to redeem ourselves from last year.”