Update for May 21, 2015

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Moody bumps Panthers from playoffs

By Heath Clary
Special to the Anvil Herald

The Medina Valley Panther softball team played Corpus Christi Moody last weekend in a three-game series, with the winner advancing to the regional semifinals. After the Panthers won the first game 3-2 in dramatic fashion, they could not close out the series on Saturday, May 16, losing two frustrating games, 14-3 and 10-6, to bring their season to an end.

Pitcher KyLee DeCock gave up two runs in the first inning of Game 1 on a walk, an error, a wild pitch, and a hit, but then she shut down the Trojans for the rest of the game. She finished the game with eight strikeouts, one walk, and two runs allowed, neither of which was earned.

The Panthers cut the deficit in half in the fifth inning, and they might have been able to score more if not for some overaggressive base running. Karli Sewell led off the frame with a stand up double to left, and then Melinda Parish hit a single and made it to second on the throw. With runners on second and third and no outs, Lauren Sotelo hit a sacrifice fly to left, allowing courtesy runner Hailey Perez to score and Parish to move to third.

Then DeCock hit a pop up that was dropped by the first baseman. DeCock made it safely to first, but Parish tried to score from third and was thrown out for the second out of the inning.

But the Panthers made sure to pick up the slack in their final at bat. The defense came through with a crucial 6-4-3 double play to end the top of the seventh, giving them some momentum going into the bottom of the inning.

Sewell flied out to right to start it, and then Parish doubled. Sotelo came to the plate and, facing a 1-2 count, crushed an inside pitch on a line over the center field fence for a walk-off two-run home run.

While it was an incredible finish to a tightly contested game, the Panthers didn’t have long to celebrate the victory, as they had to leave early on Saturday to make it to Tuloso-Midway High School for a noon start to Game 2 of the series.

Despite feeling comfortable at T-M—the Panthers played there once in the first playoff series and twice in the second round—it was the Trojans who dominated on Saturday.

Similar to what happened to the MV baseball team against Roma, the third inning proved to be crucial. With the Panthers leading 2-0, DeCock had retired seven consecutive batters to start the game, but then lost control of her pitches.

A one-out walk, three consecutive wild pitches, two more walks, a double, and then a single resulted in five Moody runs, and the Panthers never recovered.

The Orange and Black clawed back in the fifth when Parish drove in Arie Ann Bell with an RBI single, but the Trojans responded with three in the bottom of the fifth and six more in the sixth to trigger the run rule and make a third game necessary to decide the winner of the series.

Game 3 was a back-and-forth affair—there were five lead changes—but a critical defensive mistake in the bottom of the sixth doomed the Panthers.

With the bases loaded and two outs, a Moody batter grounded softly back to the pitcher. DeCock’s momentum carried her toward home plate, so she opted for the force at home instead of going the standard route of throwing to first.

It was a little high, and a surprised Sewell was not able to corral the throw. That allowed the go-ahead run to score, and then three consecutive RBI walks increased the lead to 10-6.

The Panthers tried to come back in the seventh inning, but it just wasn’t meant to be. They did a tremendous job all game long of fouling pitches off with two strikes, working deep counts and elevating the opposing pitcher’s pitch count, but it ultimately wasn’t enough as the Panthers succumbed to defeat.

Sotelo proved to be one of the bright spots in the otherwise disappointing series, reaching base in seven of her ten plate appearances—including a home run and two doubles.

While they exited earlier than they hoped, Medina Valley finished its season with a sparkling 28-4 record and a district championship. Their potent offense featured eight regulars hitting at least .338 and also 29 homers as a team.

The team will lose four seniors who are all major contributors – Lopez, Parish, Sewell, and Sotelo – but the other five starters will return and there are ample options still in the program that will make the Panthers a legitimate playoff contender once again in 2016.



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