There are 32 teams left in the Class 5A state softball playoffs and 27 of them either won a district title or were the runner-up. It is the time of the year when we hit the middle of the bracket where the cream is rising to the top.
Out of the five programs which don’t fit into the prior category, two of them will meet this week for a spot in the fourth round. Both Denison and Frisco Reedy were third seeds for the postseason, knocking off the other’s runner-up districtmate in the process.
“It’s exciting,” senior right fielder Haley Earnhart said. “I’ve never had a team like this. I’m glad I had this team for my senior year.”
There is an air of confidence that comes with getting to this point. It should almost be expected after playing well for two rounds. Keeping such a magical season going — for either the Lady Yellow Jackets or Lady Lions — might come down to the littlest detail as Denison (21-11) faces Frisco Reedy (20-7) in a Class 3A Region II quarterfinal series at Prosper. Game 1 is at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Games 2 and 3 are at noon on Saturday.
The winner will face either Hallsville or Sulphur Springs in the region semifinals next week and it will be the first trip to the fourth round for the victor.
“They’re excited. They’re ready to play,” Denison head coach Jeremy Green said. “We’ve told them all year long — learn from this experience. We’ve put in a lot of work to get to this point.”
Denison’s bats stayed hot for a second straight round and hope to carry it over. After putting up 14 runs in a sweep of Frisco Centennial, the Lady Jackets outscored Dallas Sunset 28-3 in an area-round sweep last weekend. After taking the opener 17-2, an 11-1 victory sent the Denison to the third round for just the third time in program history and first since 2006.
That year was also the most wins for the Lady Jackets until the series-opening victory pushed Denison to 20 for the first time.
“That’s the definition of a team — everybody pulls their own weight,” Green said. “They’re excited for the opportunity to be great. They’re excited to show the hard work they’ve put in.”
Hailey Jaresh and Ashlinn Hamilton combined on a no-hitter in the opener as Madison Carter was 3-for-4 with two doubles, three RBI and scored three times, Jewel Hiberd was 2-for-4 with a double, two RBI and scored twice, Earnhart was 2-for-3 with a double, two RBI and scored and Elizabeth Linwood was 2-for-3 with a double, drove in a run and scored three times.
“We come in focused. We work every day,” Earnhart said. “We all trust each other. We’ve never had a slump. We’re able to be very consistent.”
In the clincher Linwood was 2-for-3 with a home run and four RBI, Shayla Love was 2-for-2 with a double, drove in a run and scored and Hiberd and Jaci Garvin each drove in two runs.
The Lady Jackets have scored at least five runs in seven of their past eight games and 23 times in 32 contests this season.
“How do you win softball games? Score more than the other team,” Green said. “We’ve been really good at that. That’s always the goal.”
Frisco Reedy entered uncharted territory once it made it past the first round.
The Lady Lions opened the playoffs with a 6-5 victory against Lovejoy, one of Denison’s districtmates, and then swept Carrollton Creekview, 10-1 and 11-0, to reach the third round. The program is only four years old and made the playoffs for the first time last season, losing in the bi-district round.
In beating Creekview, Reedy closed out the series in a big way. Micaela Wark was 2-for-4 with a homer, three RBI and scored twice, Maia Wark was 3-for-4, drove in a run and scored twice, Toni McInnis tripled and scored twice and Maggie Cammack homered and drove in four. The lead was just 2-0 before the Lady Lions scored four times in the fifth and five times in the sixth. The opener saw Reedy take an 8-0 lead after four innings.
When they beat Lovejoy, the Lady Lions got a home run from Micaela Wark, Maia Wark went 2-for-3 with a triple, two RBI and scored twice and Reedy broke a three-all tie with three runs in the fifth and held on after Lovejoy scored twice in the sixth.
Reedy had five of its seven losses in district — Independence twice, Wakeland, Centennial and Lone Star once — to go with defeats against Little Elm and Marcus. In six of the seven losses they allowed at least six runs.
Micaela Wark leads the team with a .570 batting average, 13 home runs, 19 doubles and 43 RBI while Maia Wark is at .529 with seven homers and 35 RBI, McInnis is batting .470 with a team-best 40 runs and Madison Treutlein is hitting .367 with 31 RBI.
“They count all their runs in those three or four girls,” Green said. “I think we’ve done a good job of people’s stars not beating us. Not they didn’t hit the ball but they weren’t the reason we lost.”
Micaela Wark has thrown the most innings and sports a 3.24 ERA with 128 strikeouts, 87 walks and 111 hits allowed in 116.2 innings.