By BRAD KEITH
GLEN ROSE (May 6, 2016) — Stephenville (25-9) won the first area championship in the history of its softball program Friday, sweeping Alvarado (25-10), 6-2 and 3-1, in a doubleheader at Glen Rose High School.
The Honeybees advance to the regional quarterfinals for the first time, and will face Kennedale or Mineral Wells next week. Kennedale won game one of that series, 13-3, on Friday, with games two and three in a doubleheader format Saturday.
“We’ve accomplished something we never did before, but that doesn’t mean it’s all we’ve set out to do,” said fifth-year Stephenville head coach Rus Mayes. “I’m proud of the girls, happy they get to enjoy this time with their teammates, and now we have to go back to work so we can keep enjoying it.”
Stephenville never trailed in its series, leading 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 before pulling away with three runs in the top of the seventh in the first game. The Honeybees scored twice in the bottom of the second to take control early in the nightcap, which was highlighted primarily by defense.
Julia Flores went the distance in the circle each game, working with battery-mate Jennie Winstead behind the plate to limit the potent Alvarado lineup. Flores has every decision this season for Stephenville, having pitched all but two innings.
Flores didn’t just mow down Alvarado hitters, she did her own work from the batter’s box as well. The sophomore drove in two runs including a one-hop double to the wall in center to plate Madison Gilder for the first of three runs in the top of the seventh.
Flores also helped begin the scoring, driving Kali Smith home with an RBI groundout in the top of the first. Smith had reached base by beginning the game with a sharp ground ball that turned into a two-base error. She had taken third on a wild pitch before Flores stepped up.
Alvarado answered Stephenville leads twice over the first half of the opening game. A couple hits put runners at the corners before Stephenville threw the ball away into centerfield for the first Lady Indian run, which was unearned.
Stephenville jumped back ahead when Emily Miller scored on a bloop double by Winstead, but Alvarado answered in the bottom of the third with a triple and double, both to left, to make it 2-2.
Savvy junior shortstop Sami Shaffer used a clinical slide to knock the ball out of the glove of the Alvarado second baseman in the top of the fourth, then scored what officially stood as the winning run on a slap single to center by Morgan DiCiccio.
Flores kept her team in front long enough for them to finally break it open. Runners reached second in consecutive innings, but Flores ended the fourth with a strikeout and the fifth with a strikeout and a groundout.
Alvarado got into scoring position with one out again in the bottom of the sixth, but on what appeared to be just a routine ground out, the base runner decided to bold for third. Miller made the putout at first then fired across the diamond to Nadine Arredondo, who applied the tag in time for an inning-ending double play.
The Honeybees were fired up as they sprinted off the field following the biggest defensive highlight of the opening game, and they kept the momentum going at the plate.
And it should come as no surprise that Flores was a big part. After she drove in Gilder to make it 4-2, Arredondo drove a fly ball to left that was dropped. Flores scored with ease, and Arredondo eventually came home on an RBI ground out by Miller to finish the tally.
Winstead may have had the most difficult job of any Stephenville player Friday evening.
For 14 innings, Winstead, a freshman, kneeled behind home plate, working masterfully along with Flores to keep potent Alvarado quiet from the dish.
And in the 13th of those innings, the sixth of game two, Winstead was at her very best.
Alvarado got the tying run aboard, tried to steal, and Winstead gunned the runner down at second. Then, as if the sequence had been backed up and replayed on DVR at home, the same happened. Another Alvarado runner reached base, again the Lady Indians attempted to try and steal second to get into scoring position, except Winstead delivered once more, catching another would-be base stealer.
Alvarado loaded the bases with one out in the first inning of game two, but Flores struck a batter out then got a ground out to end the threat. The Lady Indians put two on the in the second, but Flores got out of that jam, too.
Then the Bees took the lead for good with Nadine Arredondo coming in to score on a wild pitch for the game’s first run. It quickly grew to 2-0, however, with Shaffer stealing third before scoring on an RBI ground out by freshman Jessica Howell. Howell returned to the lineup in the second game after hurting herself running to third base and being replaced by Sam Luna in the opener.
Alvarado had to load the bases again to produce its only run of the nightcap. Stephenville took the easy out at first and let a run score on a ground ball to second, and Flores struck out the next batter to preserve the 2-1 lead.
But Shaffer wasn’t done doing damage, and Stephenville would soon have an insurance run. The junior shortstop doubled to bring in Emily Miller for the final run of the series in the bottom of the sixth.
“It was a called play where Sami shows bunt, and if the infield comes in, choke up on the bat and slap it past them,” Mayes explained. “She executed it perfectly and it worked.”
As has just about everything for Stephenville this season, making it one for the school history books.