FAIRFIELD — For five innings, Maci Matthews waited.
Looking to reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2013, Gatesville found itself struggling to produce runs Friday, exchanging one scoreless inning after another with four-time defending District 18-4A champion Fairfield.
Then, the Hornets right fielder completely changed the complexion of the game.
With two outs in the top of the sixth inning, Matthews hit a pitch into left field, sending a pair of teammates across home plate, and it proved to be the cushion needed as the Hornets won 2-0 to sweep the series.
Following the victory, Matthews admitted poise was key.
“Walking into the batter’s box,” she said, “I knew I needed to get a good hit to send those runs in.
“But as a team, we did a good job of never losing our confidence. We never got down, and we just stayed patient.”
Gatesville head coach Jaime Villarrial agreed.
“This game showed who we are,” he said. “We’re not a team that is going to hit five or six home runs in a game, and we’re not going to strike out 14 or 15 batters.
“We have to be able to do the little things right, and today, we did that.”
Leading off the sixth inning, Hornets center fielder Amiah Lamar connected for an infield single before reaching second base on teammate Kennedy Berry’s sacrifice bunt.
In the next at-bat, Haley Nichols hit a single, and Chesney Smith followed with a fielder’s choice to reach first base as the Lady Eagles (18-11) threw out Lamar at home plate.
Then, Matthews stepped to the plate and sent the fourth pitch she saw past the shortstop and into left field to give the Hornets a lead they would not relinquish.
“When Maci went up to bat,” Smith said, “there was no doubt in my mind that she’d make a play.
“We had runners in scoring position, and there was no doubt she would hit us across.”
Gatesville (23-13) also delivered a strong defensive performance, stranding a combined five runners during the final four innings as Smith earned the shutout victory on the mound with four strikeouts.
The showing came on the heels of the Hornets’ 6-5 win in the series opener Thursday at Gatesville, making the outing even more impressive, according to Villarrial.
“It’s tough when a team scores some runs on you,” he said, “and then, you have to come back less than 24 hours later and face them again, but Chesney shut them out.
“So, I’m proud of her for having a great game.”
Now, the Hornets turn their attention toward the area round next week, when they will face Liberty Hill. The Lady Panthers defeated Giddings 5-1 on Thursday to advance.
Although it will not be easy to reach the third round of the playoffs for the first time since 2010, Matthews feels Gatesville now has the ability to compete with any team.
“We have a lot of confidence right now,” she said. “We’re just going to keep rolling and playing the way that we know how to.”
HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL PLAYOFFS
Class 6A bi-district
- Belton 12, Irving Nimitz 1, 5 innings, Belton advances
- Duncanville 3, Copperas Cove 2, Duncanville leads series 1-0
Class 4A bi-district
- Gatesville 2, Fairfield 0, Gatesville wins series 2-0