BELTON — Sixteen up and 16 down. And, apparently, Belton had no desire to share.
With a trio of key run-producing at-bats and a bent-but-didn’t-break performance in the circle from senior Madison Cotton, the Lady Tigers sewed up an outright District 12-6A championship with a 3-1 victory over Waco Midway at jam-packed Lady Tiger Field on Thursday night.
The celebration, finally unleashed after a tense final frame, fit the occasion — an unbeaten, 16-0 run to the league title capped with a victory over a rival in the regular-season finale that, not surprisingly, went to the wire.
The Lady Tigers open the Class 6A playoffs against Mesquite Horn in a three-game series that begins next Thursday in Belton and resumes the following day in Mesquite.
Midway (17-10, 14-2), which lost to Belton 4-1 in the first meeting but had a chance to claim a piece of the crown with a win Thursday, produced three consecutive one-out hits in the seventh inning, with the latter being Jazmin Gendorf’s RBI double to make it 3-1.
Cotton, as she did throughout the contest, hunkered down with trouble brewing and got Tatum Seith to pop out to catcher Paige Nunes, and Natalie Harris to ground out to Miranda Davila at second for the last out.
Madison Sniggs’ RBI double with two outs in the first boosted the Lady Tigers (27-6 overall) in front 1-0. Belton added Isabelle Gutierrez’s sacrifice fly in the fourth for a 2-0 lead against crafty left-hander Camryn Collier, who allowed just two hits and struck out five in five innings.
The Lady Tigers plated an insurance run against reliever Seith with another Gutierrez sacrifice fly in the sixth.
The Pantherettes had at least one runner reach second in four of the first five innings yet stranded eight on the bases over that same span as Cotton, who had just one 1-2-3 inning, continued to be stingy in the clutch.
She allowed eight hits and struck out seven.
Midway wound up leaving 10 runners on base, including two in the seventh.
It was a bit of an inauspicious start for the Lady Tigers. Midway leadoff batter McKenley Clark reached on a dropped third strike. Caroline Rowatt followed with a bunt single and Clark trotted to third on a throwing error. Seith’s two-out walk loaded the bases before Cotton got Faith Fernandez looking to end the threat.
Sniggs peppered a line drive that one-hopped the wall in center field to bring in Avery Drake for Belton’s early 1-0 lead.
Midway put itself in business in the second with back-to-back singles by Maddie Pflegling and Kadyn Trochim, before Cotton fanned Clark and a runner’s interference call on Rowatt’s grounder to shortstop simmered the surge.