In the third inning of Wednesday night’s 4A Region 2 semifinal matchup between Navarro and Boerne, senior Alyssa Hernandez did what she’s been doing all year for the Lady Panthers.
Hernandez, the big hitter for Navarro throughout the season and into the playoffs, had an amazing at bat.
Fighting through 10 pitches and staying alive with a two-strike count by fouling off pitch after pitch, Hernandez finally got the one she was looking for.
She smoked the 10th pitch in the at bat deep into right-centerfield, the ball banging off the fence for the double — driving in two runs in the process and staking the Panthers to an early 2-0 lead.
That was all the ladies would need, as Alexis Valdez shut down the Lady Greyhounds with a four-hit shutout, and Navarro went on to take a 1-0 series lead with the 4-0 win.
Crucial at bat
Head caoch Darrell Harborth noted the hot streak Hernandez has been on in the playoffs.
“She’s an animal up there,” Harborth said. “She’s hitting the ball really well and getting tons of RBI’s for us. That’s why she’s batting in the three spot, that was a huge at bat.
“She got the two strikes, was battling and competing, got a pitch she could handle and drove it into right-center — that’s her patented shot.
“When she gets the right pitch, it’s going to go somewhere.”
Hernandez credited first-base coach Morgan Cavazos for the successful at bat, and the overall success she’s had this season at the plate.
“She knows my swing and everything about it,” Hernandez said. “She’ll tell me I’m late or early, and tells me to watch the high ones, because she’s knows what I like to swing at.”
At least three of the foul balls were on high pitches that would have been balls.
“Hopefully I’ll be able to lay off of the those,” Hernandez said.
The senior has been on a roll at the plate throughout the playoffs, just last week smashing a home run, a triple and two doubles in the playoff wins over Zapata.
“I know that I have to go up there confident and I can’t be nervous,” Hernandez said. “You can’t think that you are going to strike out, you have to know that you’re going to hit the ball every time.”
Valdez helped her cause in the third after Hernandez had doubled and moved to third on a fielder’s choice, hitting a deep shot to the shortstop that allowed Hernandez to score and make it 3-0.
Navarro added an insurance run in the sixth, when Haleigh Ortiz smashed a double into left field, and was sacrificed to third on a great bunt by Emily Hinklemann.
Ortiz eventually scored with some smart base running on a bunt by Lindsey Grisham to provide the final margin.
Valdez didn’t allow a runner past second base for the entire game, twice pitching out of trouble with runners at first and second.
“That was vintage Alexis,” Harborth said. “She was moving the ball around, got a few K’s, but was getting the ball in play where our defense could work and get outs.
“They had the one girl that hit her, but everybody else kind of struggled with her. She did a phenomenal job. ”
Valdez gave credit to her defense for the shutout.
“I was feeling really confident out there, because my team was really helping me get outs and playing well behind me,” she said. “We didn’t make many errors, which was good for us, so they helped me to feel confident in the circle.
“I knew my team was going to back me up — if I threw strikes they had my back and were going to do their job.”
Finishing it off
While going up in a three-game series by a game is a decided advantage, Harborth and the Panthers know they have to be ready for tonight’s game two.
“We’re up 1-0 and have the momentum on our side right now,” he said. “It would be awesome to say we’re going to come out early and jump on them and put them away, but we know they’re going to come back to battle, they have a quality team there.”
For Hernandez, it’s about getting the series completed.
“We know that we have to finish this thing off,” she said. “We can’t let up, we have to finish it.”
Kevin Duke is the sports editor of the Seguin Gazette. You can e-mail him at email@example.com.