SAN DIEGO— Between elimination or a trip to the regional championship awaiting, Jourdanton opted for the latter. On the heels of three unanswered runs, the no. 8 Jourdanton Squaws (29-6-1) knocked off Lyford 3-1 Thursday night in a winner-take-all game to clinch just their second regional semifinal championship win in school history.
With two runners in scoring position and just one out, Lyford threatened to put the Squaws in a big hole at the top of the fifth inning. That was until Hailey Sralik showed her poise by striking out the next two batters following a timeout to prevent the Bulldogs (30-7) from increasing their 1-0 lead. The sophomore pitcher knotted 14 strikeouts and gave up just three hits.
The motto “SFT — see it, feel it, trust it,” has been one the Squaws have lived by and used to help them navigate their way to yet another successful season with a chance of more history.
“We made just a few bad plays and all came in a huddle and said, ‘We got this, we’ve done it before. We’ve done it all year. With bases loaded, we can get outs,’ and so we trusted each other and trusted what the good Lord had planned and we just saw it, felt it and trusted it and we got it done,” Sralik said.
Despite struggling to get their rhythm going at the plate, the Squaws kept battling and never folded under pressure. In addition to Sralik’s stellar pitching, the infield and outfield made plays to keep it a one run game. After Lyford rounded third base and was fixing to score another run in the top of the third, center fielder Sydney Shiller threw the ball on target to catcher Savanna Schuchart where she chased down the runner for the out.
“The tougher the situation, the better [Hailey] is,” said Jourdanton head coach Ruth Mitchell. “So it’s really exciting because she’ll just raise that level and she’ll get it done with runners in scoring position … Sydney (Shiller) also stepped in and said, ‘This ain’t over, we’re gonna get this done.’ It’s exciting to watch these girls come out on top.”
Jourdanton’s first run didn’t come until the fifth inning when Laney Briones brought home Megan Salazar on a bunt. The base hit by Salazar helped kickstart the scoring for the Squaws. Moments later, Briones slid into home on a wild pitch.
Sralik’s solo home run in the sixth helped seal the deal. It was her 12th homer this season and second this postseason.
“I was just really zoned in,” said Salazar. “I knew my team had the fight behind me and if I started something, my team would blow up. I knew that hitting was contagious so I wanted to do my job as a leadoff.”
Despite their youth, Salazar and Briones have been playing at the level of a upperclassmen, as Mitchell put it. The pair of freshmen, along with Sralik and others, have consistently come up big in their playoff run.
Mallory Vickers caught a pop fly for the final out to push the Squaws into the next round and was swarmed by her teammates.
“We stay together,” said Sralik. “Every single inning we come together and play for each other. If we’re playing for each other, we have our teammates that have our backs and we make a play, they’ll echo off that. It just continues and the energy gets rolling.”
Approaching their biggest game of the season, Jourdanton is looking to peak at just the right time. Though they haven’t played to their level of potential, their strong foundation and resilience have made them the team they are today.
“If somebody makes a physical or mental mistake, we can’t go and do the same thing,” said Mitchell. “We’re picking each other up, we’re playing as a group and we’re having a lot of fun.”
Jourdanton will take on no. 5 Santa Gertrudis Academy (SGA) Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Cabaniss Sports Complex in Corpus Christi for the 3A Region 4 Softball Championship. SGA defeated no. 9 Hallettsville 14-12 in the regional semifinal.
The Squaws fell to SGA in 2017 in their first appearance in the regional championship.
A win on Thursday will propel Jourdanton to its first UIL State Softball Tournament at Red and Charline McCombs Field at The University of Texas in Austin on May 31.
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