COLLEGE STATION — If there actually is a hurdle separating the fourth and fifth rounds of the playoffs, it stands frustrating, perhaps antagonistically, tall in front of Belton.
One night after a staggering walk-off loss in the opener of a Region II-6A semifinal series, Belton and its mighty offense, which entered the three-game tilt averaging 10 runs an outing, couldn’t manufacture the rally it needed and fell 4-1 to Klein Collins, which completed the sweep Thursday night at Texas A&M’s Davis Diamond.
After an emotional postgame huddle in left field, Belton’s players exited the field to a rousing applause.
And, why not?
Another benchmark season included an undefeated march to a district championship and a single-season record 33 wins.
However, coach Matt Blackburn’s Belton squad finished two victories shy of the program’s first regional final appearance.
In her final game, Madison Ward went 2 for 3 for Belton (33-9), which also said farewell to seven other successful seniors: Avery Drake, Caleigh Robinson, Jayden Tabler, Madison Cotton, Madison Sniggs, Isabelle Gutierrez and Taylor Tubbs, most of whom will continue their careers collegiately.
For all the power Belton packed this year — more than 50 home runs and 406 runs — and with Cotton and fellow pitcher Tubbs stingy in their own rights in the circle, Collins’ pitching staff of Kenedy Hines and Abigail Ramirez one-upped its Lady Tigers counterparts over the two games in College Station, limiting Belton to a combined 10 hits and three runs.
Ramirez gave up three hits and a run in four-plus innings Thursday.
Hines, who had the game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the seventh Wednesday, picked it up from there and sealed the series by stranding two runners and striking out the side in the seventh.
Cotton allowed three runs on five hits Thursday. She walked four, hit a batter and registered five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. Tubbs, who pitched a complete game in the opener, went the rest of the way and recorded two strikeouts.
Collins went to work early, loading the bases in the top of the first with a walk, infield single and fielder’s choice, and Nadia Almanza drew a walk to bring in Mia Cantu for a 1-0 lead.
Collins tacked on two more in the third on a bases-loaded error that scored Hines and Arwin Callaway’s RBI fielder’s choice.
Belton got one back in the fifth on Miranda Davila’s RBI infield hit that plated Harley Staton, who led off the frame with a double.
Collins tallied once in the seventh to pad its advantage.