CHINA SPRING —
“Somebody” is going to Austin.
Maybe that’s what they should put on the T-shirts and banners and good-luck signs for the Hubbard Lady Jaguars, who made history Saturday afternoon, sweeping a doubleheader from Bosqueville to win the Region II-1A title and punch a ticket to the state softball tournament in Austin.
The kids who believe in a philosophy of helping others and being the “Somebody” who does what it takes off the field is as important as what they do on the field, are alive and well and two wins away from a state title..
They proved to be Somebody on the diamond Saturday, ignoring the pressure of being on the brink of elimination and coming back from an error-filled 10-4 loss in the opening game of the best-of-three game series on Friday to win an emotionally-packed 3-2 game to stay alive before wrapping up the region title with a 6-0 victory in the second game of the day and third of the tense and dramatic series.
Olivia Curtis came sliding home just under the tag in a dust-clearing play with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh to lift Hubbard to the 3-2 win and into Game 3 of the series. Kate Saucke delivered the double to left to score Curtis..
They’ve been playing softball together along with catcher Amy Anz since they were 10, and they were looking at what could have been their last moments together on the diamond. Instead, they’re on the ride of their life -- to Austin and the state semifinals on Wednesday.
“We did it! We did it,” said Curtis, her face washed in tears afterward.
Curtis was magnificent on the mound. She not only tossed a four-hit shutout in Game 3, but she threw 12 consecutive scoreless innings against one of the best teams in Texas, and one of the state's best pitchers in Lizzy Donaldson. Bosqueville scored two runs in the second inning of the first game Saturday to knot things at 2-2, and that was it.
The kid they call “O” put up nothing but 0’s the rest of the way.
Just call her 000 000 000 000-livia.
This day, these two priceless games and the moment belonged to everyone on this team, every no-quit, no-excuse, leave-it-all-on-the-field kid who wears Hubbard's colors.
When it was over -- and yes, Curtis struck out the final batter just to put an exclamation point on the win -- the Hubbard kids erupted in celebration, storming the mound and becoming a huge ball of jubilation. It got so crazy in the middle of the ball, the entire team almost fell over. Only one thing stopped the fall.
“We held together,’’ Anz said. “Just like we have all season.’’
Some cried, some laughed, some pinched themselves.
“When it was over, I saw Amy jumping up and down and going crazy and everybody ran to the mound, but I was frozen,’’ said first baseman Megan Walter, a senior. “I couldn’t move, couldn’t say anything. I just stood there frozen. I was in shock. I just kept thinking, ‘Holy Bonanzas! Holy Bonanzas! We’re going to Austin!
“I still can’t cry,’ Walter said after the game. “I’m still in shock. But I will cry. I’ll cry when it hits me.’’
Curtis didn’t cry on the mound after the final out but when she reached the dugout and a wave of friends, family and fans started hugging her, she couldn’t hold back any more, and tears flowed like the Mississippi. She was spent, and looked toward the mound and said, “I have nothing left. It’s all there on the mound.’’
She pitched Friday and said when she got home she took the first ice bath of her life, just to give her exhausted body a chance to recuperate. Then she was throwing heat and as cool as she could be on the mound for the doubleheader, allowing just one earned run all day.
“This has been the greatest feeling,’’ she said. “This has meant everything. Well, more than that. It’s still kind of surreal. Our next game is at state. I still can’t believe it.’’
Saucke, who drove home the winning run in the 3-2 win and doubled and scored the first run in the third inning of the final game, was brilliant all day. If they gave away Gold Gloves in high school softball, Saucke would have a room full.
She owns third base and made one highlight play after another, including a couple of diving plays to snatch fly balls, and had six put-outs in Game 3, stealing at least three hits. She doesn’t just make the play -- she makes THE play, and somehow makes it look all too easy. She hasn’t made an error all year.
“It took every bit of heart we had to win this,’’ Saucke said. “And it took every player. Some players made some errors Friday night, but those same players stepped up and made big plays today. This team has more heart than any team I’ve ever played on. We knew it was possible to come back to win two games, but it’s surreal that it happened.”
Kate’s father Mike Saucke is the Hubbard coach, and he’s the man who taught his kids the “Somebody” philosophy of helping others off the field. All the kids earn “Somebody” T-shirts by doing a random act of kindness.
Coach Saucke, who was wearing a “Somebody” shirt Saturday, is closing in on 500 wins for his career. This was his sweetest, especially after his kids lost in the region final last year.
“I can’t even explain it,’’ he said. “Words don’t explain it. There’s no explanation for this or how I feel. Being so close last year and then finally making it. I don’t have the words to respond to it.’’
After Hubbard lost Friday, Saucke told his kids that they came to the finals on Friday needing to win two games to get to Austin, and that they were coming in Saturday the same way -- needing to win two games to get Austin.
All the kids repeated that positive idea after the doubleheader, saying they knew they could win two games.