Observers would note that Carroll’s Class 5A Region I bi-district sweep of Arlington Martin was a huge upset. That’s because a No. 4 seed knocked off a No. 1 seed.
But Lady Dragons head softball coach Tim Stuewe will adhere to the theory that the playoffs aren’t about seeds as much as they are about match-ups. Carroll and Martin played twice before in the regular season and split one-run decisions.
So familiarity proved to be the most valuable teacher as Carroll moved on as it won by scores of 6-3 and 4-0. The Lady Dragons advance to the area round and will face Midland at at Brownwood High School. Stuewe said the teams will play a doubleheader starting at 5 p.m. Friday. A potential deciding third game would be played at 11 a.m. Saturday.
Securing a location had been a problem. Stuewe said nothing was available in Abilene. So that left choices a little thin. But that’s a nice problem to have rather than the alternative.
“We were just in a situation where a lot of things fell into place,” Stuewe said. “We put two complete games on the field. We got the timely hits that we needed, came up with big defensive plays and got some great pitching.”
About that pitching
Stuewe had some choices to make for this series but went with what he knew in senior Alex Schneider.
The plan was for Schneider to pitch Game 1 and then start her in Game 2. Had the Game 2 start fared decently and if the Lady Dragons had the lead, Stuewe would bring in a reliever.
Turns out Stuewe didn’t have to do any of that. Schneider pitched consecutive complete games and got some great defense behind her.
For the series, she threw 14 innings, allowed 13 hits and three unearned runs. She worked around eight walks but recorded four strikeouts. On Thursday, the Lady Dragons turned two double plays that shut down innings. On Friday, another double play thwarted a Martin rally. Schneider retired six of the seven leadoff hitters in that second start. When that happens, an opposing offense is already playing from behind.
“She did really well for us,” Stuewe said. “When pitchers get on a roll, you learn to get out of the way and let them control the game. Alex was in complete command of her game and her pitches. She gave us a big lift.”
Stuewe wasn’t sure how his pitching plans will unfold against Midland, but it is likely Schneider will be featured somewhere in Friday’s doubleheader.
We’ve met before
Playing in the Bryan tournament in February is turning out to be a stroke of genius. Carroll and Midland met in that tournament. Carroll won, 13-12. Not much can be taken from a game played two-and-a-half months ago, except the teams aren’t approaching this game with only scouting reports. The winner would play the winner of Richland-Midland Lee in the regional quarterfinals.
Carroll has been to the state tournament. But Stuewe is trying to create new memories. This is his sixth season and he is trying to guide this program to the regional quarterfinals for the first time in his tenure.