AUSTIN, Texas -- Many high school softball players fulfill their wildest dreams just playing in the UIL state softball tournament.
Celina shortstop Shelby Carter took it to the next level, hitting a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 11th inning to beat Huntington, 4-3, in a Class 3A state semifinal game Friday.
“That was my dream,” Carter said. “That was my dream hit I’ve wanted all year, and I finally got it. It’s crazy.”
The final at-bat was a microcosm of the game as a whole -- very long. Carter fouled off a pitch late in the count that stayed in play but was lost by all the Huntington infielders except first baseman Kelsie Batten, who couldn’t come up with the ball on a diving effort.
Carter was then left to take warmup swings to stay focused while a Huntington trainer treated a cut sustained by Batten.
“Everything happens for a reason and I knew as soon as she dropped it, there was a reason I got a second chance and I had to do something with it,” Carter said.
The next pitch was Carter’s “money pitch,” high and inside, which she sent sailing over the left-field fence at the University of Texas' McCombs Field.
Carter said she’s hit many home runs and had a few walk-off hits before Friday, but this was her first walk-off home run.
“I just went to it and blew through it and it worked out great for me,” Carter said.
Celina (35-6-3) took the lead early, scoring three in the third inning off three singles and a walk.
Huntington (31-9) tied it with one run in the fifth and two in a sixth inning highlighted by Batten's RBI double. Huntington pitcher Erica Wright struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth, taking all of the momentum from Celina.
“I had to get them refocused.” Celina coach Billy Coleman said. “We played too hard to give in right there. We knew it was going to be a battle. Three runs -- a team that caliber isn’t going to just lay down for you. I knew it was going to be a dogfight and you’ve got to just hold down as much of that momentum as you can.”
Celina starter Katelyn Drummond countered in the top of the seventh with a 1-2-3 inning.
Drummond went the distance for Celina, picking up the win on a nine-hit, five-strikeout outing. Two of Huntington's three runs were earned.
The extended work left Drummond gassed, but she’ll get the ball again Saturday in the 3A state final against West (32-8), which beat Sweeny on Thursday night, 9-7.
“We’re going to ride her all the way,” Coleman said. “It’s her’s to win or lose.”