BELLS — It had been nearly two weeks since the Lady Tigers last played a game, and it was a meaningful one because it clinched an undefeated district championship.
The crescendo to the regular season, however, was just the next step for a Gunter team ready to keep redefining the benchmarks of this season.
Ending a postseason drought and earning the 9-3A crown are the goals that have been accomplished. Winning in the playoffs was another point on the checklist.
“I know my athletes and they are hungry,” Gunter head coach Leigh Anne Budd said. “Now it’s on to the next goal. How far to they want to go?”
Elizabeth Schroeter drove in five runs and threw a four-hitter while Monique Villanueva was 2-for-3 with a pair of triples, drove in a run and scored as the Lady Tigers defeated Van Alstyne, 12-0, in five innings in a Class 3A Region II bi-district match-up on Saturday night.
Gunter (25-6) will face Grand Saline in the area round at 6 p.m. on Friday at Rockwall-Heath. It is the first playoff victory for the Lady Tigers since 2013.
Alyssa Taylor was 2-for-3 to pace Van Alstyne (14-15), which was in the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The Lady Panthers had to win their final game of the season, then a play-in contest, in order to make it and this was coming off a year they had finished in last place in the standings.
“We played our best district ball the last four games. It’s due to the girls coming out and doing what they needed to put the work in,” Van Alstyne head coach Jason Brogdon said. “Goals were set this year and we were able to get some of them. Next year they will be bigger.”
Schroeter allowed four hits and four walks while striking out six. She kept the Lady Panthers off the board despite Van Alstyne putting a runner in scoring position four times, including the bases loaded in the fifth, to preserve the shutout.
“There was some rustiness to knock off,” Budd said. “She bounced back every time. She’s a competitor. She wants the ball and we trust her.”
Taylor reached on a one-out bunt single before Kelsie Adams walked and they moved up a wild pitch that was a strikeout for the second out. Ameryss Brogdon worked a full-count walk before Schroeter’s final strikeout enacted the run-rule.
Gunter closed out the scoring with two runs in the bottom of the third. Hayden Fox started the frame with a walk and Abby Gilbreath bunted and reached on an error. Schroeter grounded out to short to bring in a run and Kaylee Pruitt followed with the same result.
The Lady Tigers pushed their lead to double digits with a pair of runs in the second inning. Taylor Boddie and Andrea Montes walked with one out, a combination of steals and wild pitches moved them up and they each eventually scored on wild pitches.
Gunter batted around in the first to claim an 8-0 lead as the first six Lady Tigers scored.
“We did everything the same way we have all year,” Budd said. “I think they were able to relax a bit, especially after that first inning.”
Hayden Fox walked and Gilbreath reached on a bunt when no one covered the throw at first base. Gilbreath stole second and Schroeter singled up the middle to plate both runners.
After Pruitt walked, Schroeter scored on a wild pitch and Villanueva tripled to the right-center wall for a 4-0 advantage.
When Boddie walked, she continued on to second base and drew a throw. The return back to the plate was wild as Villanueva raced home. Makenna Kincheloe drove in a run with a groundout to third to make it 6-0.
The bases were loaded when Schroeter came back to the plate – Olivia Eft walked, Fox was hit by a pitch and Gilbreath reached on an infield single – and she hit another two-run single up the middle.
Van Alstyne stranded a runner in the top of the first when Taylor singled to right center to open the game, moved up on a wild pitch and was at third after a groundout. But Schroeter got a strikeout to keep the Lady Panthers off the board.