Anna O’Connor was just trying to make solid contact.
The Martin first baseman found herself at the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. The Lady Warriors were trailing by two runs in the sixth inning of Game 2 of their best-of-three 6A regional quarterfinal series against Wolfforth Frenship. Martin needed to find a way to rally to keep its season alive.
O’Connor’s goal was to tie it up with one swing. But the senior managed to do more than plate two runs. She hit the ball over the wall for a grand slam. All of a sudden, the Lady Warriors had turned a 6-4 deficit into an 8-6 lead.
“I was shooting for a double,” O’Connor said. “I’d like to get a double and tie it up. It just went. I did not think it was over. I got a little lucky.”
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O’Connor’s blast turned the series around. Martin went on to win the game and then take the decisive Game 3 in Odessa to win the series and advance to a regional semifinal matchup against Lewisville.
“With the rally we had going, I knew we were going to tie it up that inning, two outs or not,” O’Connor said. “We had good momentum.”
But even with momentum in its favor, Martin still had to do the work. Playing with their backs to the wall wasn’t easy for the Lady Warriors. But sophomore ace pitcher Lacy Mann made her teammates feel more at ease.
“It was nerve-wracking,” O’Connor said. “I think we did really well under the pressure. [Mann] did really well under the pressure. Our defense held it down really well.”
Mann and senior pitcher Kylie Dobbins teamed up to keep Frenship batters off balance during the Game 2 rally and series-clinching Game 3 victory. Dobbins started both of the games, and Mann, who is the staff ace, entered both games in relief.
“The way we walked off the field after Game 2, we just wanted to keep going and not take a break,” Mann said of the half hour break between Game 2 and Game 3.
Dobbins is adept at throwing curveballs, whereas Mann is a power pitcher. Their contrasting styles kept hitters guessing. “Kylie Dobbins did a good job of throwing them off because their speeds are very different,” Martin coach Cathy Rudy said. “Kylie starting Game 3 made them slow their hands back down. And then Lacy’s speed came in and threw them off.”
Martin lost Game 1 by six runs. But rather than dwell on the team’s mistakes, Rudy pointed out that the Lady Warriors had outplayed Frenship in every inning but one. That realization helped restore the players’ confidence.
“We realized we just had one bad inning,” Mann said. “[The coaches] are always making us smile.”
The coaches, O’Connor said, never tell the players to stop doing something. Instead, they ask them sometimes to try something else that might work better. One such positive lesson occurred prior to O’Connor’s big hit.
Rudy had advised O’Connor to crowd the plate because the opposing pitcher had consistently been throwing her outside pitches. “I just crowded the plate,” O’Connor said. “She just told me, ‘The whole game she’s been throwing you outside, outside. Get up on the plate.’”
Rudy was right. “I got on it as far as I could,” O’Connor said. “She threw me inside, and I swung.”
O’Connor, who hit a line drive rather than a towering fly, did not know at first what she had done. She didn’t know the ball had cleared the wall. “She was sprinting to second when she realized it was over,” Rudy said. “We were like, ‘Yes!’”
Martin might not always get a clutch home run. But Rudy’s confident that her squad will find a way to make the key play, even if that means legging out an infield single. “We know that all through our lineup, it’s all about getting a base hit,” Rudy said. “It’s not about a home run. We can get a hit or we can hustle a ball out at first, which we did a lot this past series and in the regular season. … We always talk about selfless ball, just moving runners.”