Aledo emphatically punched its ticket to the Class 4A state tournament with a dominating 14-4, five-inning victory over Azle on Friday night at Saginaw Chisholm Trail High School.
The Bearcats, 4A state champs in 2008, advanced to the state tournament last season without a senior on the roster, leaving high expectations for this year.
“I’m breathing a lot easier right now,” Aledo coach Jeff Lemons said. “There were a lot of expectations, but it’s incredibly hard to get there. I don’t care how much talent you have coming back, it’s incredibly hard.”
Aledo (31-4) scored four runs in the top of the first inning Friday in Game 2 of the Region I finals. The Bearcats had a 3-0 lead before Azle (35-8) recorded its first out.
The hitting carousel continued in the second when Aledo batted around while adding six more runs to take a 10-1 lead into the third inning.
“You write out a blueprint and that’s what the blueprint says, but you don’t really expect that,” Lemons said. “We had a game plan we talked about, we had everything planned out and everything fell into place.”
Aledo led 14-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth when Azle showed some life. The Hornets manufactured three runs before Ladycats starter Lauren Craine coaxed consecutive batters to fly out to end the game by run-rule.
“I was kind of nervous and being cautious about throwing it down the middle or anything like that. I ended up giving them too much of the plate,” Craine said of the final inning. “But I knew I could depend on my defense and let them start playing the ball.”
Kadyn Kirkpatrick and Chickie Cook each had three RBIs, with Allie Arneson and Riley Sartain each adding a pair.
Aledo lost in the state semifinals last season, and feels the script can be different this time.
“We’re not going down there this time just happy to be there. We have a mission this time,” Lemons said.
“I definitely feel like we’re a better team all around,” Craine added. “I think last year was just a dress rehearsal for this year. I think this is our year.”