BELTON — The instruction in midst of a tie game from coach Matt Blackburn went like this: “We need to score some runs and score some runs in clumps,” Belton’s coach recalled.
A dozen in one inning certainly fulfilled that request.
Locked at 2-all through 3½ innings with Mesquite Horn in Game 1 of a Class 6A best-of-three bi-district playoff series Thursday night, Belton’s bats came unhinged — in a good way. After Madison Ward was beaned to lead off the bottom of the fourth, the Lady Tigers were off and running, sending 16 batters to the plate and recording eight hits and 12 runs en route to a 14-2 victory in five innings over the Lady Jaguars at Lady Tiger Field.
“I kept telling them that every inning they let them hang around, you’re throwing gas on the fire in their dugout,” Blackburn said. “We went to the small game a little bit, just
to catch them off-guard, and we started to do a good job of sitting back and driving the ball.”
Game 2 is at 6 tonight at Mesquite Girls Softball Complex.
This series winner plays either Prosper or Garland in the second round.
“Coach said, ‘All right, I’m giving y’all the green light on the first pitch,’” said Belton’s Avery Drake, who was 3-for-3 with two doubles, three RBIs and four runs. “That’s when we really started attacking the ball.”
That the Lady Tigers (28-6) did. After being held hitless through two innings, Belton bombarded Horn starter Taylor Thompson and relief pitcher Alyssa Spoerl for 11 hits over the third and fourth innings.
Caleigh Robinson was 3-for-4 with four RBIs, Isabelle Gutierrez had a two-run double, Madison Sniggs drove in a pair with a single, Paige Nunes had two hits, and Bethany Sherwood popped an RBI double off the top of the wall in left field for the Lady Tigers.
It was plenty of offense for Belton right-hander Madison Cotton, who allowed two runs on four hits for the win. Hannah Kelley pitched the fifth and struck out Thompson to close it out.
“We were out ahead, hitting it off the end of the bat, popping it up. We didn’t have a hit until the third. Sometimes, you have games like that. As a coach, it gives you a bit of a heart attack because I know we can hit,” Blackburn said.
Back-to-back singles by Tabitha Borden and Meagan Youngman set the table for Thompson, who waited back on a looping change up from Cotton and drove it to left field for an RBI single and 1-0 lead for Horn (11-12).
Twelve pitches into Belton’s first the Lady Tigers tied it when Drake, who led off the frame with a walk and stole second, scored from second on an error by Horn shortstop Leah Deaver.
Horn used a single, a fielder’s choice and a hit batter to load the bases with one out in the third and went up 2-1 when Deaver scored on a wild pitch. Cotton fanned Thompson for the second out, and second baseman Miranda Davila dived to her left to corral a grounder then threw to first from her knees for the third out, saving at least one more run.
“She’s actually been working on those dives and timing them perfectly, and that just really came through for us,” Drake said. “That was one of the big plays that pushed us to start getting it going.”
Belton knotted matters rather rapidly in its half of the third when Drake, who had picked up the Lady Tigers’ first hit earlier in the inning, sauntered home on Robinson’s RBI single to right.