Lauren Craine saw this coming.
The junior pitcher knew the teams Aledo would have to go through to win a UIL Class 4A state softball championship this year: Buda Hays and Ennis.
The Bearcats took care of defending champion Hays in a 6-5 semifinal victory Friday at McCombs Field, avenging a 8-1 loss in last year’s semis. That sets up a title game against Ennis, which beat Aledo 5-2 in the Bearcats’ second game of the year.
Aledo (32-4) meets Ennis (38-5) at 1 p.m. Saturday. Aledo won the 4A title in 2008.
“We knew this was going to happen,” Craine said. “Last year was a dress rehearsal. This is the real show.”
Craine (25-1) helped Aledo take a 4-1 lead into the sixth, but four consecutive Rebels reached base with one out in that inning. The last was Hays first baseman Karina Rocha, who hit a soaring, two-run home run to put the Rebels (31-6) ahead 5-4.
But Aledo took advantage of a couple of Rebels miscues in the home half of the sixth. Megan Mason led off with a double to center and scored on an error to tie the game at 5.
Aledo went up for good when a pick-off attempt on pinch runner Sammie Clarkson at first sailed into right field. That allowed another pinch runner, Mary Myers, to score from third and put Aledo back on top 6-5.
“We knew they were going to fight really hard and that we had to fight back and show them what we got,” said junior third baseman Riley Sartain, whose bases-clearing double in the first inning gave Aledo a 3-0 lead. “I think we’ve got it. This is what we’ve worked toward ever since the very first practice.”
Aledo shortstop Allie Arneson came up with two big defensive plays in the top of the seventh, and the last Hays out was a popup to first.
“Nothing rattles her. Nothing gets to her,” Aledo coach Jeff Lemons said of Craine. “That [experience] makes a huge difference. It’s the reason we’re standing here.”
• Ennis 8, Barbers Hill 7: Ball in hand after taking a relay throw from the outfield, first baseman Kayla Prachyl raced to third and made a diving tag of Courtney Fisher to end the game as the Lions (38-5) upset the nationally ranked Eagles (32-1).
Fisher doubled in a run to cut Ennis’ lead to 8-7, but was tagged trying to reach third.
“It was kind of a blur,” said Prachyl, sporting a bloodied and bruised right hip resulting from the play. “I faked her and she didn’t even move. Then she kept easing off and looking back toward third base. I saw the third baseman come over to kind of just calm everybody down and then once she took off, I figured out she was trying to go to third, so I just took off at her.”
Barbers Hill had not surrendered more than four runs in a single game before Friday. But Ennis, trailing 4-0, after three innings, batted around and scored six times off Eagles starter Randi Rupp (27-1) — a rally that included a towering, go-ahead two-run homer from pinch-hitter Sam Martinez.
Ennis starter Taylor Maliska (28-2) regrouped after a sluggish start and retired the side in the fourth before Barbers Hill tied the game, 6-6, with two runs in the fifth. The Lions answered with a pair of two-out runs in the sixth as pinch runner Mo Monreal, who was shaken up but uninjured on a collision at the plate, and Julia Hollingsworth scored to set up the dramatic finish.