MELISSA — Celina sophomore pitcher Micayla Galloway says she tries not to show emotion in the pitcher’s circle. But in a one-game playoff with the season on the line, it was difficult for the left-handed fireballer not to.
Especially in the seventh inning with the tying run in scoring position and nobody out.
With four scoreless frames of relief and backed by some huge defensive gems — not the least of which was freshman center fielder Grace Cantu’s spectacular running catch in the seventh to keep the tying run from scoring — Galloway helped nurse the Lady Bobcats (21-5) to the finish line against Sanger with a 12-out save, preserving Friday’s 4-3 area-round victory in the Class 4A Region II softball bracket at the Melissa Sports Complex.
Celina (21-5) advances to face either Argyle (15-17) or Crandall (25-2) in the Region II quarterfinals this week.
“I was internally biting my nails,” Galloway said. “When I was 10, my coach told me to never show my emotion on the field … because that (shows) a weakness to other players on the field. That’s what I had to do tonight.”
Sanger (16-8-1) mounted a rally in the top of the seventh as Lynzie Rollins bunted for a single and Mercedes Ibarra hit a roller up the middle to put two runners on. The next batter, Kat Wells, hit a deep fly ball to center that Cantu tracked down on a dead sprint and speared on the fly.
“That catch should’ve been on ESPN tonight,” Celina head coach Carla Bartlett said. “That was a college-level catch.”
Cantu — following in the footsteps of two older sisters who also played center field for the Lady Cats — also had a crucial run-saving play to lead off the sixth when she held Sanger’s Maddie Donaldson to a very long single, the first base runner allowed by Galloway.
Cantu fielded a carom off the wall perfectly on Donaldson’s deep drive, firing it back into the infield to prevent extra bases. Donaldson eventually was stranded at third base as the tying run.
“She is probably one of the best outfielders I’ve known my whole life,” Galloway said. “I’ve played with her since I was about nine years old. I trust her in the outfield. She works hard and she got it.”
Galloway was not the winning pitcher — that honor went to senior starter Randi Dobbins, who battled a pesky Sanger batting order for three-plus innings before yielding with a one-run lead intact. Dobbins gave up only two hits, but walked five and hit a batter.
“Randi struggled a little bit tonight, but … Randi throws the ball really hard and there were some issues (getting) the ball to the plate,” Bartlett said. “Micayla did a great job coming in. She’s done that for us before in big situations.”
Galloway retired eight of her first nine batters faced in relief and got additional help from new catcher Skylar Vest, who threw out an inherited runner at third on a steal attempt to end the fourth inning.
The first two innings looked very promising for the Lady Cats as they jumped on Sanger starter Wells for four runs, two of which were earned.
Dobbins led off the first with a walk, stole second and scored on Galloway’s one-hopper to the left-field wall for a triple. Galloway scored on a passed ball and a dropped fly in right scored Alexis Ginegaw, who had walked.
In the second inning, Celina cashed in another Dobbins walk and stolen base as Ginegaw blooped a single into center for an RBI.
But after that, Wells settled down for Sanger, retiring the final nine Lady Cat batters in order.
“Our batters got a little complacent having an early lead, and that’s normal,” Bartlett said. “But (Wells) definitely turned it on in the later innings. We had trouble hitting her. I’m glad we got those four runs early.”
The Lady Indians made a game of it in the top of the third, scoring all three of their total tally. Two of them came on an opposite-field home run by Sanger cleanup hitter Kimbo Hopson, followed by two walks, a passed ball, a wild pitch and a safety squeeze bunt by Stevey Newman to cut the margin to a run.
After Dobbins led off the top of the fourth by walking Sanger’s nine-hole batter, Bartlett made the change, moving Galloway from behind the plate and putting Vest behind the dish.
“We’re so blessed to have two pitchers where we have that option,” Bartlett said. “If one is struggling, the other can come in. Both of them work well together and they’re two completely different pitchers.”