There was no warm-up act for the Lady Eagles. No non-district games. No tournaments. No way to see what lineups or defensive alignments would work when the innings mattered most.
“The weather killed us. We had regionals in basketball. There’s a bunch of girls who played volleyball and basketball and we wanted to give them a little bit of a break,” said Mark Ellison, who is the head coach for all of those teams. “We had some games in district that we could change the lineup a little bit. This is the group we’ve stuck with.”
Texoma Christian’s first game of the season came in district play and now it hopes its last one ends with a state championship.
“I think it did take a toll on us but once we got going I think we realized we could do it,” first baseman Jenna Jaska said.
The first step to keeping their undefeated record intact comes as Texoma Christian (12-0) faces Temple Central Christian (12-1) in a TAPPS Division IV state semifinal at 10 a.m. on Friday at Concordia University.
“We had an idea of how it would come together. Our infield has been the same from the start and the outfield is getting better and better,” Ellison said.
The winner will play either Belleville Faith or Lake Jackson Brazosport Christian for the state championship at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
It is the third state tournament appearance for TCS, all in the last five seasons, but the first since 2014. The Lady Eagles were the state runner-up in 2013 and then were semifinalists a year later. Texoma Christian came up one win short of state last season and found a way to go that extra step this year.
“Everyone’s super excited about the program. Juniors have wanted to come out and play. Seniors have wanted to come out and play,” pitcher Bailey Yale said. “We’ve accomplished something.”
The Lady Eagles opened the season starting with district play and won all 10 of those contests. They average 10 runs per game against those opponents while giving up a total of just 17 runs.
“I think we do an amazing job of playing together as a team,” Yale said. “That’s what’s really helped us. As you see we pulled through and came together for what we are now.”
That success has carried over to the postseason. TCS had a first-round bye and then Yale no-hit Bryan Brazos Christian, which lost to Temple Central Christian twice in district, in a 10-0, six-inning victory.
Yale’s improvement and experience from her freshman season has been key.
“She grew up over the summer. She came back bigger, better, faster and ready to play,” Ellison said. “The whole team did and that’s what got us to this spot.”
Texoma Christian beat Fort Worth Bethesda, 11-5, in a region final last week to advance to the final four. Jaska’s bases-clearing double highlighted an eight-run sixth inning to earn the victory.
“We got down on ourselves but none of us were ready to put up our jerseys and put away our cleats. We’re all really close and believed we could pull each other through whatever would happen,” Jaska said. “We proved that. We showed how much we really, really wanted this.”
Maggie Fortenberry added a two-run double as the Lady Eagles took a 3-0 lead in the first but then trailed 4-3 going to the bottom of the sixth after Bethesda scored twice in the top of the inning.
Yale and Lexi Tan chipped in RBI doubles and Kamryn McNew capped the outburst with an RBI single.
“We’ve been down but not out. We were hitting it right to them. Then we started hitting it harder and placing it better,” Ellison said.
It was one of the few times the Lady Eagles have been tested — only two games have been decided by two runs or less — this season and they responded well at the critical time.
Temple Central Christian had a first-round bye like TCS and then beat Arlington Burton Adventist, 19-9, before an 18-2 victory against Dallas First Baptist — whom the Lady Eagles beat twice to capture the District 2 title — in a region final.
“They hit the ball pretty good. We’re going to have to play defense,” Ellison said. “Your pitcher’s gotta be on. Your catcher’s gotta be on. The fundamentals have to be there.”