It was the wildest game in Jeff Lemons’ coaching career, but his Aledo softball team survived the first game of the regional quarterfinal series and went on to sweep Burleson Centennial last week.
In the process, the Bearcats cemented a strong option in the circle with backup pitcher Tori Gore.
Aledo (36-3) will face El Paso Chapin (33-6) in the regional semifinals series with Game 1 scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Odessa’s Ratliff Stadium. Game 2 will start at 1 p.m. Saturday with Game 3 30 minutes afterward, if necessary.
Having not pitched in almost a month, Gore was called upon to work the Bearcats out of a jam Friday when Centennial rallied from a six-run deficit in the seventh inning to take an 11-10 lead.
“I have no idea what happened really,” Lemons said. “One minute, we were cruising and the next we got swept up in the moment and the lead was gone.”
Lauren Craine has been Aledo’s ace throughout the season and Lemons said he felt like he wanted to give her maximum rest for a potential Game 3.
So he asked Gore to take the ball and she delivered with a three-hit, 7-2 win.
Lemons said he wasn’t surprised by the effort.
“She’s the reason we did so well early in tournament play,” he said. “Lauren can’t pitch every game so Tori had to put things on her shoulders and she did.”
Keller finds a way
Having ceded the district title to Richland, Keller coach Lindsay Strong said she thinks an early district loss to the Rebels is perhaps the turning point for her team’s season.
The Indians (29-4-1) were perfect in the second half of district play and avenged the loss in the final week of play to the district champion Rebels.
Yet this week, Richland is at home after a playoff series loss and Keller finds itself headed to a clash with Flower Mound Marcus in the regional semifinals. The games are 7:15 p.m. Thursday, 7:15 p.m. Friday and, if necessary, 7:15 p.m. Saturday at Colleyville Heritage.
Strong said her team is talented but young, and they’ve learned quickly what it takes to have success in the postseason.
“I think losing to Richland and Southlake was a big deal to them,” Strong said. “It really motivated them to improve each week and they started to mature mentally.”
Strong pointed to her options in the circle as the most evidence of the improvement.
“They began to realize that it was OK to let someone else come in and do their part to finish things or play some kind of role.” she said. “In the past, our pitchers felt like they had to throw all seven innings and that just isn’t the case.”
Kennedale moving on
The Kennedale Lady Kats (23-10) are out of the regional quarterfinal after sweeping Iowa Park on Friday and Saturday, and coach Amie Kirkpatrick said clearly the early season schedule has helped her team develop.
Kennedale lost extra-inning games to 5A powerhouses Lewisville and Flower Mound Marcus in tournament play in February.
“Those were close one-run games and you could just see the confidence on their faces,” Kirkpatrick said. “Aside from a couple of players, this is virtually the same team from last season and they’ve improved a lot.”
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