High School: UIL Softball Playoffs

State softball for Hebron, Denton Guyer

May, 30, 2010
Hebron earned its first trip to the softball state tournament with a 6-2 win over Plano in the third game of a best-of-3 Class 5A Region I series Saturday in Frisco.

A two-run home run by Morgan Butler in the seventh inning snapped a 2-2 tie and helped Hebron (27-12), fourth-place finisher in District 6-5A, continue its best playoff run.

Hebron won Game 1, 4-1, on Wednesday. Plano (28-13-1) forced Saturday’s game with a 1-0 victory on Friday.

Sophomore Heather Stearns was the winning pitcher.

Hebron will play Pearland (35-6-1) at 5p.m. Friday at the University of Texas’ McCombs Field.

Rowlett’s bid for its first state tournament appearance ended in a 1-0, nine-inning Game 3 loss to Tomball for the 5A Region II title.

Rowlett (30-7), ranked No. 16 nationally by ESPN RISE, opened the series played in Waco with a 5-2 win, then lost 5-0 in Game 2.

Denton Guyer, (34-5-2) will be in the 4A state semifinals Friday after sweeping Mansfield Legacy (29-13) in the Region I series, 1-0 and 4-3. Guyer faces Waco Midway (34-5-1) at 11:30 a.m. Friday at McCombs.

Waco Midway ended the season for Frisco Wakeland (34-3-1) in the 4A Region II final series with consecutive wins of 2-1 and 3-2. Wakeland was ranked No. 5 nationally, best of any Texas team, by ESPN RISE.

Rowlett feeds off catcher's inspirational return

May, 26, 2010
Emily York signifies the fighting spirit of the Rowlett Eagles softball team.

Two years after being diagnosed with cancer and only three months since completing treatment, the junior catcher is one of the top hitters on a team that meets Tomball for the Class 5A Region II title and the opportunity to play in the state final four.

“She’s come back stronger than before,’’ said first-year head coach Brooke Hale. “It is a blessing to have her back and it has brought everyone together.’’

York, a junior, underwent 15 months of chemotherapy treatment for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“There’s a spirit about this team,’’ said Hale, herself a former Rowlett softball player. “I told ’em after we came back to beat The Woodlands last week, ’You guys are different than everybody else.’

“This team is closer than any I’ve been around,’’ Hale added. “I feel like a proud mama.’’

Twice in the playoffs Rowlett (30-5-2) has gone on to win games after overcoming deficits in the seventh inning. The Eagles, staring at elimination, scored two runs in the third game of the area-round series with Mesquite. Last week, Rowlett overcame The Woodlands' 4-0 lead in Game 1 of the region semifinal series.

The Woodlands went into the series ranked No. 7 nationally by ESPN RISE.

Rowlett, No. 32 nationally and No. 3 in 5A state, is loaded with experience in key spots. Three seniors are four-year members of the varsity. Already, it is Rowlett’s best showing in the playoffs.

Pitcher Brianna Rodriguez, who has signed with Northwestern State, is the third-place hitter and the team leader.

“She’s one of the most focused and determined players I’ve seen, including college players,’’ Hale said.

Two other seniors have signed college scholarships, second baseman Megan Laff (Tennessee Tech) and shortstop Jordan Terry (University of North Texas).

Tomball (27-8), a traditional Houston-area softball power, is bidding to make its fifth trip to the state tournament. It breezed past Mesquite Horn in two games, 11-2 and 10-2, in its region semifinal series.

Tomball senior pitcher Shelby Lancaster has signed with Sam Houston State.

The best-of-3 series is scheduled for Waco ISD Field. Game 1 is 7 p.m. Thursday, Game 2 at 6 p.m. Friday and if a third game is necessary, it would follow Game 2.

Plano softball sails into uncharted playoff waters

May, 25, 2010
Uncharted success for Plano High softball, yes. But not unexpected.

Plano coach Cynthia Zea toughened the team’s non-district schedule with an eye to post-season.

The Wildcats (27-11-1) have responded with their longest playoff run in school history.

They’ve worked their way through four rounds and face Hebron (25-11) in a best-of-3 series for the Class 5A Region I title and a berth in the state final four.

All games will be played at Frisco Heritage High School. Game 1 is 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Game 2 is 7:30 p.m. Friday and if a third game is needed, it would be at 2 p.m. Saturday.

In cold, windy conditions back on March 12, Hebron edged Plano, 1-0 in a non-district game with an unearned run being the difference.

“Honestly, this season hasn’t been a surprise to me at all,’’ said Zea, in her eighth season as head coach. “Our problem in the past has always been drawing a hot team in the second round of the playoffs.’’

Last year, Coppell took Plano out in the area round. The year before, it was Mesquite. In 2003, it was Garland. In all, six times Plano has gone to the second round without advancing.

But that changed this year when Plano defeated the No. 1 5A team in the state coaches’ poll, Coppell, 1-0, in a single-game elimination.

“Finally clearing that hurdle has relaxed us,’’ Zea said. “This team has been so calm.’’

Plano’s versatility makes it well-suited for just about any style it needs.

With Fresno State signee Vonnie Martin it has the power to slug it out and speed to play small ball with slap-hitting Arkansas signee Macy Burr.

Starting pitcher Abbi Frakes, a senior who has signed with Ouachita Baptist, has backup help at the ready with sophomore Kat Batey.

Plano’s starting lineup is composed of a freshman, a junior and four sophomores to go along with the only four seniors on the squad.

Three of the current sophomores played as freshmen on the varsity last year.

Zea said last year’s Plano East team provided inspiration when it finished fourth in District 8-5A, but made it to the state tournament.

“We’re not a team that depends on one big player,’’ Zea said. “It seems like it is somebody different every game.’’

Hebron making first playoff trip one to remember

May, 20, 2010
COLLEYVILLE -- A sure sign of a successful season -- scheduling a playoff series around the post-season banquet.

That’s precisely the pleasant situation the Hebron softball team finds itself.

Wednesday night, Hebron scratched for a run in the bottom of the seventh to defeat Burleson, 1-0, in the opener of a best-of-3 Class 5A Region I semifinal series in Colleyville.

Thursday night is reserved for the team banquet, scheduled months ago, then it is back to Colleyville for Game 2 on Friday.

Pretty eventful stuff for a program in the playoffs for the first time in school history. The Hawks finished only fourth in the six-team District 6-5A.

“We’re peaking at the right time,’’ said Hebron coach Sue Dunn. “There’s a real excitement. I know I can feel it.’’

Hebron (24-11) didn’t need much offense Wednesday because sophomore pitcher Heather Stearns struck out 18 and allowed only one hit, an infield single in the seventh.

Before Hebron batted in the bottom of the seventh, Dunn strolled from the third base coaches box toward home plate, whistled and motioned for Hawks fans to adjust their caps to ‘rally’ mode.

Cecelia Constantino promptly legged out an infield single, Hebron’s only hit off Burleson pitcher Samantha Montes, and Whitney Burt followed with a sacrifice bunt. Constantino came all the way around to score the winning run when the throw went into right field.

“The rally caps got us fired up on Saturday when we were down 1-0 to Flower Mound Marcus, so I thought we’d try it again,’’ Dunn said.

Hebron defeated Marcus, 3-1, in the decisive game of the regional quarterfinal series.

Hebron’s other playoff victims have been Plano West and Keller, which was ranked No. 2 nationally by ESPN RISE when Hebron scored a 1-0 bi-district victory.