CRANDALL — When Nakaila Banks led off with a single and scored soon after a sacrifice bunt and two errors, it looked like Hubbard might be looking at a big offensive night. It turned out to be anything but, and it also turned out to be more than enough.
Olivia Curtis was splendid on the mound, striking out 13, and the Lady Jags dumped Trenton, 3-0, in the Region II-1A semifinals before a crowd of 250 in Crandall.
Hubbard, now 24-6-1, is one win away from skipping over to I-35, turning left, and heading to Austin and the state tournament.
“This was our experience coming through,” said Hubbard coach Mike Saucke, who had led one team in 27 years to a regional finals appearance. He had four losses in the regional semifinals, and has never been to Austin.
Hubbard will face the winner of the Bosqueville-Sam Rayburn series. This is Hubbard’s deepest trek in the playoffs.
“That was a great ballclub we beat,” Saucke said. “They’re very young.
“This was another fun game to coach.”
A week after besting Mart, which beat the Lady Jags for the District 11-1A title, 7-6 in a rather high-scoring game, Hubbard and Curtis clipped along at a quick pace Friday. The Lady Jags scored a run in each of the first three innings, the first two unearned.
At times Curtis looked vulnerable, but through the middle innings she gained steam. She retired 11 of the last 12 batters she faced, with Trenton senior third baseman Ally Murphy sneaking in her second single with one out in the sixth.
Curtis responded by getting her 10th and 11th strikeouts to make sure Murphy did not become only the fourth Lady Tiger to reach second.
None reached third.
“Last week, everybody was tuned in to our pitcher, and our sticks came alive,” Saucke said. “This week, our defense came alive.”
Curtis allowed only four hits, and walked two. Trenton had only seven at bats with runners in scoring position, and failed to deliver a hit in any.
Hubbard had one (1 for 9), in the third inning, when Kate Saucke smacked a double down the left field line to plate Curtis and make it 3-0. They had scored again in the second to make it 2-0 when Dallas Fletcher walked, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, to third on a wild pitch, and scored when Kalin Brown struck out, but reached on a dropped third strike. Fletcher took home on the throw to first.
Kate Saucke almost added a run in the seventh when she doubled off of the top of the left field wall.
“That’s a home run in any other park but this one,” Mike Saucke said. “It’s an eight-foot fence and 215 feet.”
With the backing of a loud fan-base, Hubbard – led by Curtis, cruised in the latter innings. Trenton never threatened after getting two on with one out in the fourth. Curtis again struck out the next two hitters, and struck out the side in the inning.
“A game like that tests your mettle,” Saucke said. “It tested the mettle (of the Trenton) kids too. It’s a shame one team had to lose.”
Region II-1A Semifinals
Hubbard 3, Trenton 0
Hubbard 111 000 0 – 3 4 0
Trenton 000 000 0 – 0 4 5
WP – Olivia Curtis
LP – Jordan Withrow
Top Hitters – H: Nakaila Banks 1-3 (run, BB), Kate Saucke 2-4 (2-2Bs, RBI), Sadie Simmons 1-3. T: Jordan Withrow 1-3, Ally Murphy 2-3, Kellie Connelly 1-3.
Records – Trenton 26-6, Hubbard 24-6-1.