By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
WACO - As she trotted around the bases - with three runners in front of her - Meredith Langford had butterflies.
The Belton junior shortstop wasn't nervous, just that happy.
Langford hit her first career home run - a grand slam - and the Belton Lady Tigers advanced to the Region II-5A quarterfinals Friday with a 9-2 win over Rowlett at the Waco Athletics Sports Complex.
"I have never hit a home run before and I got a grand slam," Langford said. "It was very exciting. She pitched me inside and kind of high and I just went to the plate not thinking. My parents told me to use my hips, so I used what little ones I have."
The Lady Tigers (19-15) now play a doubleheader against District 12-5A rival Bryan (26-5) in the quarterfinals Friday at Baylor's Getterman Stadium. Game 1 is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. and Game 2 will follow 30 minutes after.
The Lady Vikings defeated Belton 12-0 and 7-6 in district play this season.
"Right now (we) are getting better and better with every game, and it is great to see," said Belton coach Matt Blackburn of his young team. "If you asked me halfway through the season if we would be playing a district opponent in the third round - absolutely not. It is still stressful because we are still learning as we go, but I am sleeping a little better at night."
Belton loaded the bases in the second inning, but Kirsten Whiteside hit a fly ball to right field and Lauren Ramsey, who was 3-for-3 with two runs, left third base early. Skylar Stewart was then caught leaning and picked off second base as Belton got caught in an odd triple play.
But with the wind blowing out to dead center field and Rowlett's pitchers struggling to find the strike zone, the Belton bats didn't have trouble rebounding.
Alyson Bishoff launched a two-run homer in the third inning and three batters later, the Lady Tigers scored two more runs on a pair of Rowlett errors to go up 4-0.
"Yeah I am (pretty comfortable here)," said Bishoff, who hit a walk-off home run to lift Belton over Mesquite Horn in last season's regional quarterfinals in Waco. "That (homer) was really high. I thought she was seriously going to catch it."
The four-spot was more than Belton pitcher Alex Wilson needed. Wilson did give up 10 hits, but with the Belton defense never allowed the Lady Eagles to put a strong inning together. Langford made a diving stab at short to save a pair of runs in the fourth inning, after Rowlett had already scored one run on a Brianna Sims sacrifice fly.
Then Kaitlyn Dunahoo ran down a deep fly ball in center field that would have caused problems in the sixth to help preserve the Belton lead.
"The defense is just getting better and better and we are putting them in the right place and it seems to be working out for us," Blackburn said.
Langford delivered the dagger to the Lady Eagles in the fifth inning, hitting a high soaring grand slam over the left field wall that scored Whiteside, Bekah Alcozer and Billi Farr to put Belton up 9-1.
"I looked around and saw people in the stands saying it was gone and I kept going," Langford said. "I knew (I got it). It felt good and I knew it was going far, but I didn't know it was going over.
"It was nice and a great feeling. We just had to prove everyone wrong who didn't think we could get this far in the playoffs."