Van Alstyne edges Venus in series opener
ANNA — It was a tough spot for any pitcher, one where allowing just a single run might be viewed as a great outcome.
But when there’s six outs remaining in a one-run contest, facing the bases loaded with no outs is about as pressure-packed as it can get.
Van Alstyne starter Kelsie Adams had already wriggled out of one major jam and was being asked to do it with the stakes raised even higher.
“She’s a ruthless competitor,” Lady Panthers head coach Jason Brogdon said. “She’s a fighter. She’s not the type you have to worry about with that.”
It took an unconventional double play but Adams and Van Alstyne made it out of the sixth inning with the lead intact and the Lady Panthers had a 1-0 victory over Venus to open a Class 4A Region II quarterfinal series.
Van Alstyne (21-6) will look to earn the sweep on Friday at 7 p.m. at Midlothian while Venus (19-7) will attempt to force a deciding contest at 3 p.m. on Saturday at Sunnyvale.
Adams threw a three-hitter with 12 strikeouts and four walks and had an RBI double while Kylie Allen tripled and walked for the Lady Panthers, who are trying to reach the region semifinals for the first time since 1998 after getting to the third round for the first time in 21 years.
“We’ve set ourselves up in a good spot. They have to answer on Friday,” Brogdon said. “None of us have been in this situation before. It’s going to come down to which team is going to be the most disciplined.”
Natalie Lopez was 2-for-3 and hit by a pitch and Kaylee Davis threw a two-hitter for the Lady Bulldogs, who left eight on base.
Adams helped her cause in the bottom of the first with a hit that produced the only offense and was about a half-foot from providing a much more comfortable margin.
Sydney Sullivan and Allen walked with one out before Adams sent a ball deep to left field. It hit just short of clearing the fence for a three-run homer but it did give Van Alstyne a 1-0 advantage and runners in scoring position.
Davis kept the damage to a minimum with a strikeout and groundout but it turned out to be all Adams needed.
The Lady Panthers had just one more base runner the entire game — Allen tripled to right with two outs in the sixth but Adams fouled out to keep it a one-run margin.
Davis finished with 10 strikeouts, including striking out the side in the second and fourth innings as she was retiring 16 straight.
“I figured she was going to be pretty good. We had to get people on base,” Brogdon said. “We didn’t have enough of a cushion.”
Venus had runners on in every inning but the seventh, when Adams sandwiched a pair of popouts around a strikeout to secure the victory.
The Lady Bulldogs loaded the bases twice but were unable to push a run across and no chance was bigger than the sixth inning.
Anyssa Heflin walked and Natalia Frias hit a long single to right center that sent pinch-runner Valeria Gonzalez to third. Jade Loewen bunted back to Adams and she held onto the ball to force Gonzalez to retreat at third.
Venus had the bases loaded and no outs when Angel Rodriguez hit a one-hopper to Paige Scarbro at second and she immediately fired home for the force.
Mariah Martinez then hit a popup behind the circle that invoked the infield fly rule as Loewen interfered with shortstop Taylor Roberts as she was going back to second base and was called out for interference, resulting in a double play and VA holding on to its slim lead.
“I was hoping he’d make the right call,” Brogdon said. “You hate to have (a play like that) in a big game but you also hope it’s called because it’s what happened. The runner didn’t even see her.”
A wasted opportunity to take an immediate lead in the first occurred after Lopez singled with one out and Davis and Heflin walked, the latter free pass on four pitches.
Following a visit to the circle, Adams struck out the next two batters, each on three pitches, to escape the early trouble.
Venus ran into outs in the fourth and fifth innings. In the first scenario, Loewen reached on an error to open the inning and went to second on a sacrifice. Martinez grounded to short and Loewen looked to advance to third but Roberts threw her out.
In the fifth inning, Lopez was hit by a pitch with one out and Tinsley Love threw her out trying to steal second.
The Lady Bulldogs also left a runner in scoring position in the third after Lopez singled and stole second but Adams struck out the side.
Class 4A Region II
Van Alstyne 1