Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

April 23, 2014

GC Softball: Playoff Time

Corsicana, Mildred, BG and Hubbard open playoffs this week

Corsicana — There  were some bumps on the road and slides in the standings and a few bruises along the way, but five Golden Circle teams have reached the softball playoffs that begin with first round games on Thursday.

For Corsicana it was a wakeup call during the second half of district play that gave the Tigers the push they needed, and for Mildred it was the culmination of yet another splendid season as the Lady Eagles made the playoffs for the fifth straight season. Blooming Grove is back again, a regular in post season play with a chance to make a run, and Hubbard begins its quest to get to the state tournament and Austin with a one-game playoff on Thursday against Itasca in Italy.

Frost, which repeated as district champs, receives a first round bye and will open its playoff run in the Class 1A area round game next week.

Corsicana

The Tigers face Mansfield Legacy at 7:00 on Friday in Mansfield, and will be at home at 1:00 on Saturday for Game 2. If a third game is needed it will played after Game 2.

They almost forced a three-way tie for first place in District 16-4A with a 4-0 run in the second half of the district season, but fell short against first-place Whitehouse in the season finale on the road. But that doesn't mean the Tigers aren't taking some momentum into the playoffs. That second half push changed the way they think and play.

“I think we've grown a little bit with our youth. Our younger kids learned the importance of the district games and stepped up,'' said Corsicana Coach Elizabeth Collier, whose team took third in the district with a 7-3 record. “And I think we got into a routine and settled in during the second half of the district.''

The Tigers were swept in a three-game series against Legacy a year ago, but even though Legacy returns its ace, the Corsicana kids feel confident.

“I think everyone started to work together (in the second half of district) and we realized we had to pick things up or things would not go our way,'' said Jourdan Bruce, a junior. “I think we're more of a family this year.''

The Tigers feel they are a better team than the one that lost to Legacy.

“I think from the experience side of it we are better. We returned eight starters including two seniors and five juniors. We're more prepared this year,'' said senior Sidney Kirk, the team's leading hitting. “We have the experience. I don't think we are going to be nervous or intimidated.''

That second have push not only lifted the team's record, but it's confidence, too, and that's what Corsicana takes into the playoffs.

“When we lost those games at the beginning in the first half of district it made us realize we are better than that,'' said junior catcher Leeah Seth. “We all knew we had the potential to be a good team and it gave us the push to do it.''

The experience helped and the addition of freshman pitcher Chelsea Vandiver also added a new dimension for the Tigers, who use Vandiver and Kirk on the mound.

“She has done really well,'' Collier said of Vandiver. “She stayed focused at the task at hand. I think a lot of girls have put in a lot of work in the off-season and that's helped. This is a close group and I think we feed off each other defensively. If we have a strong defense at the beginning of a game we play well the whole game.''

Kirk said it's a different team this year because everyone contributes.

“We don't just count on two or three girls,'' she said. “We get hits up and down the lineup. We might score runs at the top of the order or we can score runs at the bottom of the order.''

More pitching, more balanced hitting, more energy on defense and more togetherness might just be what the doctor ordered for the Tigers, who are determined  to make a run in the playoffs.

Mildred

Mildred always makes a run, and the Lady Eagles enter this year's Class 2A playoffs with a 22-4 record, a rock-solid lineup, two aces on the mound and a lot of momentum.

Mildred opens against Trinity at 7:00 at home on Thursday, and then travels to Trinity for Game 2 on Saturday at 2:00 with a third game to follow if necessary.

Coach Brett Zamzow feels pretty confident about his team, but he isn't crazy about the bracket .

“We would have to play a real good team from Rogers, a district champ, in the second round and we would probably meet Crawford in the third round. Crawford is 28-0 and ranked No. 1 in the state.''

Still, Mildred will bring plenty of firepower.

Shortstop Callie Bland does just about everything — and does it well. He's hitting .514 and has scored 43 runs and driven in 42 runs this season. She leads the team in homers with four and RBI's and knows how to hit in the clutch.

Center fielder Maddie Moore is the consummate leadoff hitter. She leads the team in runs with 44 and has driven in 27. She's hitting .490 and has stolen 26 bases. First baseman Savannah Pritchett is hitting .495 and has driven in 38 runs while scoring 28.

Zamzow calls his pitchers 1 and 1A because both are aces. Taylor White is 10-2 with a 1.50 ERA and has struck out 91 batters in just 61 innings. She's hitting .451 with 20 runs and 20 RBI's.

Aubyn Turner is 7-1 with a 2.50 ERA and has 58 Ks in 50 innings. She leads the team in hitting with a

.577 average and has scored 37 runs while driving in 21.

“They are all used to playing with each other,'' Zamzow said. “We have really good team speed and really good team unity, and we had one of our best games of the year in our last game. We beat Riesel, a playoff team, 22-4. That's good momentum to take with us into the playoffs.''

Hubbard

No one was looking forward to the playoffs as much as the Lady Jags, who made it all the way to the Class 1A Regional Finals last year , just a step away from Austin and the state tournament.

They return most of that team, including some of the best players in the Golden Circle.

Third baseman Kate Saucke, who was the Golden Circle MVP as a sophomore, is a senior and she's hitting .596 with a dozen doubles, four triples and a homer. She has driven in 40 runs this season. Center fielder Nakaila Banks is batting .566 and scored 43 runs from her leadoff spot. She has also driven in 24 runs and has six triples and four homers.

Left fielder Hailey Davidson is hitting .549 with three triples and 19 RBI's. She has scored 28 runs. Catcher Amy Anz is batting .500 (42 for 84) with eight doubles, two triples, a homer and 30 RBI's.

Then there's the team's ace, Olivia Curtis, who is 17-3-1 with a 1.60 ERA. She has 156 strikeouts in just 121 innings and can completely dominate a game. In the district showdown with Bosqueville during the final week of the season, Curtis tossed a shutout, and then three days later threw a shutout at Axtell.

Hubbard (22-5-1) has been ranked in the top five in the state poll for most of the season. The Lady Jags  will play Itasca at 6:00 in Italy on Thursday in a one-game playoff format.

The goal is to get to Austin.

“That would be everybody's goal,'' said Hubbard Coach Mike Saucke, who has 483 career wins. “We really do think we have a chance.''

Blooming Grove

The Lady Lions (8-4 in the district race), who stormed through District 23-2 and into Class 2A playoffs, are always in the playoffs. Everyone in Blooming Grove is used to that idea, and this year's team is no different.

 It's loaded with talent up and down the lineup and the Lady Lions have what is arguably one of the best batteries in this part of the state with pitcher Falcon Thompson and catcher Steely Southard, who hits like lightning and runs the bases like a deer.

The Lady Lions open a three-game series with New  Waverly at 7:00 on Thursday at Madisonville and then goes back to Madisonville on Friday for Game 2 and possibly Game 3, starting at 6:00.

 

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