The Navarro faithful were nervous.
In an anxiety-packed last couple of innings Friday night in Dripping Springs, the Boerne Lady Greyhounds were rallying.
The Lady Panthers had seemingly put Boerne away, on the heels of a two-hit, six-RBI performance from slugger Alyssa Hernandez, taking an 8-3 lead heading into the sixth inning.
But Boerne would not go quietly into the wam and windy Texas night.
Three runs in the sixth cut the lead to just two, 8-6, before Navarro pitcher Alexis Valdez helped her own cause by knocking in Hernandez from third to push the lead back to three, at 9-6.
Then came the top of the seventh, and the Panther fans in attendance, about 150 of them, held their breath as Boerne rallied yet again.
The Greyhounds loaded the bases with only one out, needing just a base hit to threaten to send the game into extra innings.
But Valdez, who had shut Boerne out on Wednesday, 4-0, would get the final two outs via a strikeout and a groundout, and the Lady Panthers won the series 2-0 to move on to the 4A regional finals.
“That was stressful, very stressful,” head coach Darrell Harborth said. “That last out is hard to get, Boerne battled and competed and put the pressure on us. I was proud of how we kept answering back — every time they scored we would score at least a run to try and increase that lead and make it a little bit easier.”
Harborth’s club was put to the test in the final two innings.
“Bases loaded at the end with just one out — to get out of it without them scoring — shows what this team has been able to do all year long,” Harborth said.
Boerne had hit Valdez all night long, collecting 11 hits on the evening, but the coach never wavered on leaving her out there to finish the game out.
“When you’re at that point it’s hard to change, you have to stay with your horse,” Harborth said. “Some people would have maybe, but we felt good that we could make the plays and get it done.”
Hernandez hit two towering shots in the game, the first coming in the third inning after Boerne had taken a 2-0 lead.
First-pitch swinging, the senior launched a shot over the left field fence that was a “never a doubt” ball, clearing the fence by about 10 feet.
The drive knocked in the first three of her six RBI’s on the night, and Navarro took a 3-2 lead.
Her next at bat came just one inning later, in the fourth, when she came up with the bases loaded.
Navarro’sLindsey Gresham and Ashlea Frederick drew walks, before Bailee Stanzione singled to load the bases.
With the bases packed, Boerne had no choice but to pitch to her, or concede a run with an intentional walk.
“I feel good when Alyssa’s up there swinging like that and crushing the ball,” Harborth said. “You can’t walk her in that situation.”
This time it was a triple to right field, over the outstretched glove of the Greyhounds rightfielder, and she cleared the bases yet again for a 6-2 Navarro lead.
But it wasn’t all Hernandez in the game, as several other Panthers got in on the offensive onslaught.
Hernandez would score in the same inning with Sydnie Booker’s sacrifice to the pitcher — and Navarro went up by five, 7-2.
After the Greyhounds scored in the top of the fifth, Navarro added another run.
Emily Hinkelmann hit a shot into the gap for a double and Sydni Stevens doubled in the next at bat to knock Hinkelmann in for the 8-3 lead.
“Haleigh (Ortiz) was up there battling getting some big hits, Hinklemann had a big hit to score a run late there in the gap, Stevens came through with a big RBI to increase the lead,” Harborth said. “As much as Alyssa did, everybody else stepped up and contributed.”
That set up the Greyhounds rally in the last two innings, which thankfully for the Navarro fans, would come up short.
The coach has been impressed all season with his squad, their toughness making an impression on him.
“Our seniors have been through the mill for a while here and they are just doing an awesome job,” Harborth said. “They just refuse to lose.”
The Lady Panthers move on to the regional finals this week to face Fredericksburg, which won their playoff series against Rio Hondo late Saturday afternoon.
Kevin Duke is the sports editor for the Seguin Gazette. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org