By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
Down 2-1, courtesy runner Brittany Bass just did what Belton coach Matt Blackburn told her to do.
She jogged to second base.
Ellison catcher Rayven Jones threw to gun her down, only to have the throw skirt into center field. The play allowed not only Meredith Langford, who had been on third base, to come around and score, but for Bass too.
"Well he told me to get in a rundown to score Meredith (Langford) home, so I jogged to second and they missed the ball," Bass said. "Then he was just like 'Go, go, go!' and I went and scored."
The botched play cost the Lady Eagles the game and a playoff spot Friday as they fell 6-2 to Belton, which clinched fourth place in District 12-5A with the win.
Belton scored its first run in almost the same exact way.
Skylar Stewart doubled in the second inning and scored after Tiffany Beaver, who courtesy ran for Becca Alcozer, initiated a run down. The first time worked almost as good as the first.
Stewart slipped underneath Jones' tag and cut Ellison's lead to 2-1.
"I thought 'Well, it worked the first time. So, let's try it again.' Lo and behold (we scored again)," Blackburn said of the fake rundowns he orchestrated. "We've done that probably five times this year. The speed I have coming off the bench is a luxury."
The Lady Eagles (10-13, 6-8 12-5A), who went 0-14 in district play last season, had taken the initial lead after Dusti Douglas led off the game with a double to deep center and later scored on a passed ball. After Jay Monge bunted for a hit, Alyssa Castro followed with an RBI double to put the Lady Eagles up 2-0. Castro doubled again in the fifth inning, but Jones, who had walked to open the inning was thrown out at the plate when the rely throw from Belton shortstop Kirsten Whiteside beat her to the plate.
"We just don't have that finishing and that clincher mentality, yet," said Ellison coach Rebecca Daley. "Most of the runs scored on us this year was with two outs and that is about finishing. That is what we have to work on. We have developed so much in every aspect. Now, it is going to be about finishing."
Ellison needed the run.
Belton (15-14, 8-6) scored its two unorthodox runs in the bottom of the inning and then poured it on in the sixth. Already leading 3-2, Belton tacked on three insurance runs when Stewart, Wilson, Becca Alcozer and Kirsten Whiteside strung together more hits than the Lady Tigers had in the previous five innings.
Wilson led off with a single and a stolen base and was driven home on a single by Stewart.
"I just went up there knowing I had to hit the ball," Stewart said. "When I got the hit the first time I just swing my heart out. The second time - that change up kept getting everybody - I popped up on it. But, when I came up again I was ready for it."
Alcozer singled to put runners on first and third and then Whiteside slapped a double into right-center field to put Belton up 6-2.
The runs all but sealed Belton's 15th consecutive playoff appearance.
"I have been telling them that all season," Blackburn said. "That has been part of my motivation. I've told them 'Don't be the team that doesn't make it because everyone will remember that team for the wrong reason."