COLLEGE STATION — Lake Belton’s Madison Lux broke off a snippet of The Griddy as she crossed home plate during the third inning Thursday night. One more victory and the Lady Broncos can high step or Moonwalk or whichever dance move they choose into the next round.
Lux belted a line-drive two-run home run, Shelby Schultz struck out 13, including the final two with the potential tying run at second base in the bottom of the seventh, and Lake Belton held off El Campo 2-1 in Game 1 of a Class 4A Region III semifinal best-of-three softball series at Texas A&M’s Davis Diamond.
“Made me sweat a little bit,” Lady Broncos head coach Matt Blackburn said after his team won its 16th in a row.
And that’s not just because of the temperature. The Lady Broncos didn’t exactly prance all the way to the series advantage. They left seven runners on base and tip-toed anxious moments during the sixth and seventh innings.
Back-to-back two-out errors, the second of which allowed Morgan Russell to score from first base, suddenly had the Ladybirds (22-13) within 2-1 and knocking on the door for more in the sixth with runners at first and third. But first baseman Hannah Jensen fielded a ball hit by Ashley Fisher for the third out.
A one-out double to center by Carlee Bubela put the potential tying run on the basepaths in the bottom of the seventh. Schultz, though, got the next two batters to swing through strike three to preserve the narrow margin and set the table for what figures to be a competitive remainder of the series.
“It is what it is. You’re going to make errors. To be able to flush it and come back and finish the game off, we closed it out and I feel pretty good about it,” Blackburn said. “We got out of there with the win.”
Game 2 is slated for 5 p.m. today back at Davis Diamond, with Game 3, if necessary, to follow. The winner plays Taylor or defending 4A champ Liberty in the Region III final next week.
The Lady Broncos (27-5) had the leadoff batter on in five of seven innings Thursday night but they happened to score in one they didn’t. Autumn Holman (2-for-4) singled into left field with one out in the third before Lux popped a 2-2 pitch over the right-center wall with two outs for a lead that stood.
Bubela didn’t allow another hit until Schultz singled and Lux doubled in the seventh. The freshman right-hander scattered six hits, walked five and fanned two.
“I felt really good with Shelby in the circle,” Blackburn said. “Offensively, we were hitting the ball hard right at them, and I’m OK with that. We didn’t have a ton of strikeouts. So, we’re seeing it. We made adjustments as the game went on, got more baserunners on, so I feel pretty good if they throw (Bubela) again.
“But, by far the best pitcher we’ve seen in the playoffs.”
Schultz (16-2) struck out six of the first nine batters she faced en route to the 13 total. El Campo didn’t have a hit Alyssa Mendez peppered a one-out double to the wall in right with one out in the fourth.
LAKE BELTON 2, EL CAMPO 1
Lake Belton 002 000 0 — 2 6 2
El Campo 000 001 0 — 1 2 0
Schultz and Shimabukuro. Bubela and Fisher.
W—Schultz (16-2). L—Bubela.
HR—Lake Belton: Lux. 2B—Lake Belton: Lux; El Campo: Mendez, Bubela.
Records—Lake Belton 27-5, El Campo 22-13.
CLASS 4A REGIONAL SEMIFINALS
All games at Texas A&M’s Davis Diamond, College Station
Thursday, May 19
- Lake Belton 2, El Campo 1, Lake Belton leads series 1-0
Friday, May 20
- Lake Belton vs. El Campo, 5 p.m. (Game 3, if necessary, to follow)