Softball is usually played at a brisk pace. Outs are quickly executed. Hits are sparse. Strikeouts are often the norm.
But when it came to this weekend’s Class 5A Region I area playoff series between Carroll and Midland, that went out the window. In fact, everything that took place in that series would catch as your attention as the game being played completely differently.
Midland ousted Carroll (22-14) in a wild Game 3, 17-11, in Brownwood. In Friday’s doubleheader, Carroll won Game 1, 8-7. Midland won Game 2, 12-11.
“It was literally a slug-fest,” Carroll coach Tim Stuewe said. “That’s as bizarre a three games I’ve ever been around in this game. I really can’t explain what we saw out there.”
For starters, the two teams combined for 66 runs. Midland scored 36. Carroll scored 30. They combined for more than 200 at-bats and there were only nine strikeouts. The teams also combined for 95 hits.
Now, to the games. In Game 1, Midland led, 5-3, before Carroll managed to tie it, 5-5, and eventually pull out the win. In Game 2, Carroll appeared to be on the verge of a sweep. It took the lead, 11-8, in the top of the eighth. But this game didn’t come down to Carroll needing one more out or one more strike in the bottom of the inning. Midland put its first two batters on base and wound scoring four to force Saturday’s deciding game.
On Saturday, Carroll started quickly with five runs. However, the Lady Dragons were outscored, 17-6 the rest of the way.
This really begs the question of whether Region I is just not producing the dominating pitching it has seen in recent years, if this is cyclical or if there is any other reason behind the prolific offense. It could be a variety of things.
“Lewisville and Mansfield Timberview have some pretty good pitchers,” Stuewe said. “But as a whole, we just don’t have dominating pitchers.
“We’re five years into the mound being moved back from 40 to 43 feet and when they changed that, a lot of coaches felt like it added 50 points to the batting average. Batters can pick up on the ball much better and know what kind of pitch it is.”
But then again, maybe that’s just the type of softball Carroll and Midland play. At the Bryan-College Station tournament in February, Carroll won another slug-fest, 13-12.
The postseason assault
While Carroll’s softball is over, it’s noteworthy not to let it end without some notable figures. For the five games, the Lady Dragons batted .432. Senior pitcher Alex Schneider batted .500, while senior Lauren Heintzelman also batted .500.
But now the work in the offseason begins because Stuewe has to replace seven seniors (five starters) from this squad.
“We want to continue the success that we’re developing, but we’re not satisfied just advancing to the second round,” he said. “We’re losing some big bats. But our pitching (junior Jessica Tunink and sophomore Camie Green) will continue to grow. We just will have to find some answers.”