Ennis one win away from crown
Mark Warde, [email protected]
AUSTIN — Ennis rallied from a four-run deficit to stun top-ranked and previously undefeated Barbers Hill, 8-7, to advance to the Class 4A championship game on Saturday.
Trailing 4-0 entering the top of the fourth inning the Lady Lions, now 38-5-1, sent 10 batters to the plate and erupted for six runs. The big blast was a two-run homer to left by freshman Samantha Martinez. The shot sailed far beyond the wall, glancing off a canopy to give Ennis a 5-4 lead.
Junior Julia Hollingsworth followed with a double, and then stole third base. She scored when senior Rylie Robertson smacked an infield single up the middle.
The Eagles had yielded only 19 runs in 32 games prior to today.
Barbers Hill, ranked No. 3 nationally by USA Today, slipped to 32-1. They tied the score in the bottom of the fifth.
A two-out single started things. After Ennis senior pitcher Taylor Maliska hit Sara Rupp with a pitch, the Eagles lined back to back RBI singles by Courtney Fisher and Kitty Hornberger to knot the score at 6-6.
The Lady Lions countered with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth for a lead they would not relinquish.
Freshman Kinsey Skroh walked and Hollingsworth got on board with an infield single. Head coach Rodney McNeill inserted courtesy runner Mo Monreal in place of Skroh. It paid off. Robertson, the senior rightfielder lined a sharp RBI single to right-center that plated Monreal. The sophomore would have easily scored had it not been for the catcher Sara Rupp, a senior, who interfered with Monreal’s access to the plate.
She blocked her path by stepping into her slide, initiating a jarring collision that caused an injury to Monreal. The ball arrived well late of the slide.
Lana Pate, another sophomore, hit a flair over the shortstop into shallow left field to knock in Hollingsworth from second. It turned out to be the game-winning run. Maliska stymied a valiant comeback bid by the Eagles in the bottom of the seventh. After retiring them in order in the sixth, she struck out two of the first three batters. In between, Miranda Wiggins singled to left.
Fisher ripped her third hit with a double to the fence in rightcenter that drew Barbers Hill to within a run. The relay from the outfield came in to Kayla Prachyl. She turned to her right to send Fisher retreating back to second. Then, as Prachyl stepped towards the pitching circle, Fisher inexplicably bolted to third base in a bid to catch Prachyl off-guard. Instead, Prachyl sprinted and tagged her out as she tried to evade her with a wide slide.
The final out of the game sealed the deal, cutting short what had been a perfect season for the Eagles.
The expected pitching duel between Maliska and Randi Rupp gave way to batters who combined for 21 hits. Ennis had eight hitters who found success against Rupp, who entered the game 27-0 with an 0.25 ERA.
Hollingsworth went 3-for-4 and scored twice to lead the hit brigade.
Sophomore Michaela Cochran, junior Courtlyn Benitez, senior Kayla Prachyl, Robertson, Skroh, Pate and Martinez rapped a hit apiece. Monreal scored twice, while both Skroh and Martinez registered two RBI’s.
Barbers Hill collected 11 hits off Maliska, but they managed just one walk. She fanned seven to improve her record to 28-1. She fired 142 pitches, as did Rupp.
The Lady Lions made one error, the Eagles committed four.
The facility, which seats just 1,252, lacked enough seating for a game between the top two ranked teams in Texas.