By ARMANDO GARZA
Special to the NEWS
AUSTIN – They were certainly happy to be here, but that doesn’t mean they’re not sad leaving.
After a superb start, the San Benito Lady ’Hounds couldn’t withstand a bad inning as they ultimately fell to Lewisville 5-2 in their Class 5A state semifinal at Red & Charline McCombs Field on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.
The first appearance by a Valley team at the state softball tournament showcased one of the best teams in recent memory and a swarm of San Benito faithful in the stands and standing along the rails. An over-capacity crowd of 1,200-plus was announced.
San Benito (34-3) led the game 2-1 after four innings before the Farmers (30-13) plated four in the fifth to seize momentum and ultimately a coveted spot in Saturday’s championship game against Humble Kingwood.
“We had one bad inning and there were a couple of calls that we still can’t figure out. But that’s part of the game,” Lady ’Hounds coach Elias Martinez said. “Our girls had a great season and I couldn’t be more proud of my girls. We never gave up.”
As has been the staple of this year’s historic playoff run, the Lady ’Hounds came out with supreme confidence and they capitalized on Lewisville’s mistakes.
In the second inning, Clarissa Huerta reached on an error and Mel Ramirez followed that up by reaching on another infield miscue. Cynthia Rodriguez was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Kim Harper followed a couple batters later and slapped one to shortstop and the ball was juggled. That allowed Huerta to run home for a 1-0 lead. With the bases still juiced, Amber Jasso drew a walk that scored Ramirez for a 2-0 San Benito lead.
Lewisville got one back in the fourth inning when a throwing error allowed Miranda Worthington to score.
But the fifth inning, as Martinez had alluded to, is where the damage was done.
The Farmers’ Becca Scott led off with a single and advanced to second on an error. Jessica Nelson followed with a bunt single and the bases were loaded when Selena Garcia’s fielder’s choice was held.
That’s when what was viewed by almost everyone in the ballpark as a blown call occurred.
A grounder was hit to Huerta who charged to flip to Harper at home plate for a would-be force out. Photographs taken clearly show Harper’s foot on the plate before Scott reached home.
The call was not made, however, and the tying run was allowed, much to the dismay of Martinez and the hundreds of fans in attendance.
“I still don’t understand that force play,” Martinez said. “But we’re young and we’re learning about the big stage. It’s a different ballgame at the state tournament. But we loved it, our girls enjoyed it and our girls are gonna get better.”
Maribeth Gorsuch’s sacrifice fly scored Nelson for Lewisville’s first lead (3-2) and Worthington’s sac fly brought home Garcia. A double from Emily Lasky brought home the final run.
San Benito couldn’t muster any more runs and finished the game with two runs on two hits and four Lewisville errors. Besides Harper’s single in the third, Dorothy Millan also singled to lead off the fifth.
“We’ve been knocking on the door the past couple of years and this year we kicked it in,” Martinez said. “Now we’re at the state tournament, so it’s open. It shows that we can play at this level.”
“We represented the Valley well and our girls have nothing to be ashamed of,” Martinez said. “Lady ’Hound Softball is alive and well in the Rio Grande Valley and we will be back.”