GLEN ROSE — Gatesville’s opponent was Venus, but the Hornets’ obstacle was the weather.
After making the playoffs for the second consecutive season, Gatesville was rewarded with a first-round series against Class 4A’s fourth-best team in the state.
Then, Mother Nature interfered.
Heavy rains inundated the area earlier in the week, forcing the best-of-three series to be shortened to a winner-take-all contest Friday evening, and it altered everything, according to Hornets head coach Jaime Villarrial.
“In a one-game series,” he said, “you have to do a lot of things well. You have to hit well, pitch well, play defense well, and at times, we did that well, but you have to do it for seven innings.”
Gatesville (13-20) fell an inning shy of potentially upsetting the Lady Bulldogs, allowing a pair of runs in the bottom of the sixth inning before falling 4-2.
After trailing 2-1, the Hornets tied the contest in the top of the sixth inning as Kenzie Gardner hit a RBI single to score teammate Maci Matthews, but Venus’ high-powered offense finally came alive.
The Lady Bulldogs collected two of their six hits in the inning as four consecutive batters reached base.
While defeating a top-5 team is a daunting task in itself, Villarrial admitted the challenge intensified once the series was suddenly abbreviated.
“Obviously,” he said, “there is more pressure on the pitching and more pressure on the defense.
“But we knew what to expect, and they still got us. We just wanted to be mentally prepared to not strike out or commit errors, and unfortunately, we still did. That was the difference.”
Following a scoreless first inning, Emma Blakley hit a RBI single to send Brady Barnard across home plate, but Venus (22-2-2) had an answer, tying the contest 1-1 in the bottom of the second.
The score held into the fourth inning, when the Lady Bulldogs loaded the bases with no outs but escaped the situation with a narrow 2-1 advantage.
Two innings later, Gardner’s shot tied the game, but it was not enough to fuel an upset.
Gardner finished with two of Gatesville’s four hits in the game and struck out three batters en route to the pitching loss.
Now, the Hornets turn their attention toward the future and returning to the playoffs for a third consecutive season next year, but they will be doing so without a majority of the current roster, including four starters — catcher Kennedy Berry, second baseman Erin Necessary, shortstop Hailey Nichols and center fielder Maci Matthews.
Although the seniors’ departures will affect the team’s chemistry, it will not alter the Hornets’ philosophy.
“After this game,” Villarrial said, “these girls should believe in our foundation.
“If we pitch well and play good defense, then we’ll be in every game and give ourselves a chance to win.”
FRIDAY'S PLAYOFF SCORES
Class 6A bi-district (best-of-3)
- Belton 12, Mesquite Horn 2, 5 innings (Belton wins series 2-0)
- Rockwall 14, Shoemaker 0, 5 innings
- Rockwall 21, Shoemaker 2, 5 innings (Rockwall wins series 2-0)
Class 4A bi-district
- Venus 4, Gatesville 2, Venus advances