By David Kapitan
FORNEY – The Van Lady Vandals are now just four wins away from earning the title of State Champion to their 2014 resume with a Regional Semifinal series win over Celina on May 15-17.
Game one of the series couldn’t have gone much better for Van, with the Lady Vandals dominating on the mound, in the field and at the plate in a 17-0 rout.
Van put up crooked numbers in each of the first three innings, plating 6, 4, and then 7 runs to seize the lopsided advantage.
Hallee Carter proved to be the offensive key for both the game, and eventually the series, going 3 for 3 with two doubles and 6 RBI.
Kylee Moore went 2 for 4 at the plate, while Ashlin Lovett, Nicole Gandy, Haleigh Moore, Autumn McKinney, Sierra Nichols and Jordain Castillo each added a hit.
Additionally, Gandy and Haleigh Moore each contributed two RBI, and McKinney Nichols and Castillo added one RBI apiece.
Lady Vandal starter Nicole Gandy picked up her 13th win of the season in the contest, striking out Lady Cat batters over five innings of three-hit baseball.
Celina fought back to even the series at 1-1, recording a come from behind 4-3 win over the Lady Vandals on May 16.
The Lady Cats scored first in the game, plating a run in the bottom of the first to take a 1-0 lead.
Van scored single runs in both the second and third innings, edging in front 2-1. Celina pitching and fielding kept the Lady Vandals in check during the rest of the game.
The Lady Cats scored two runs in the bottom of the fifth, taking a brief 3-2 lead.
Van evened things at 3-3 in the top of the sixth, before Celina rallied back with a run in the bottom of the inning for a 4-3 win.
Autumn McKinney pitched all seven innings for Van, striking out six while allowing only five hits.
Hallee Carter continued her stellar play at the plate, going 3 for 4 with two triples and 2 RBI.
Nichole Gandy and Sierra Nichols each recorded multi-hit games, and Ashlin Lovett and Haleigh Moore had a hit each.
The Van offense re-found its groove in the series finale on May 17, pounding out 14 hits in a 12-2 Lady Vandal wins.
Celina took a short-lived 2-0 lead in the first inning courtesy of a home run, but Van bounced back and pulled away over the course of the next two innings.
The Van offense scored four times in both the first and second innings, catapulting the Lady Vandals to an 8-2 lead.
The Lady Vandals put the game away just three innings later, scoring four more times in the fifth inning to close out the 12-2 win.
Hallee Carter put the cap on her phenomenal series performance by going 3 for 4 with 2 RBI. The Lady Vandal centerfielder finished the series by going 9 for 11 at the plate (good enough for a .818 batting average), recording two doubles, two triples and 10 RBI.
Nicole Gandy, who recorder her 14th win of the season in the game to tie teammate Autumn McKinney, also went 3 for 4 with a double and 4 RBI.
Ashlin Lovett, Sierra Nichols and Jordain Castillo each added two hits, and Kylee Moore and Autumn McKinney went 1 for 3.
Van, ranked 7th overall in the state according to the Texas Girls Coaches Association, will take on 3rd ranked Atlanta in the Regional Finals. The best-of-three series will be placed at NTCC in Mount Pleasant on May 22-24.
First pitch for game one is scheduled for 7 p.m. on May 22. Game two will begin at 7 p.m. on May 23 and game three, if necessary, will take place at 5 p.m. on May 24.