By David Kapitan
AUSTIN –Van Lady Vandal players, coaches, and fans experienced a season’s worth of lows and highs May 29 during the team’s 15-13 State Semifinals victory over the Snyder Lady Tigers.
Van got on the scoreboard first, getting a triple from leadoff hitter Hallee Carter and an RBI from shortstop Ashlin Lovett in the top of the first for a 1-0 lead.
Snyder threatened in the bottom of the inning, but Van managed to dodge a bullet by overcoming a first and third jam with a double play.
The Lady Tigers wouldn’t be held down for long. The Snyder team took advantage of several Lady Vandal miscues in the bottom of the second to pull even, and eventually ahead. Snyder got a runner on base courtesy of an error, and then followed it up with a single and an RBI double to tie the score at 1-1. The Lady Tiger offense continued its surge, pulling ahead on a sac fly, before another RBI single and an RBI double helped Snyder build up a 4-1 lead.
The Lady Vandal offense came roaring back in the top of the third, scoring five runs to re-establish a lead. The inning opened with a Devri Cotton groundout, followed by singles from Jordain Castillo, Carter and Lovett to load the bases. Kylee Moore reached on an error, cutting the Lady Tiger advantage to 4-2.
Nicole Gandy hit a grounder that would result in an interference call on Lovett, leaving the bases loaded with two outs.
Haleigh Moore followed the second out of the inning with the biggest at bat of the game, launching a ball to centerfield that skipped all the way to the wall. Moore cleared the bases, and scored herself on a misplay by the Snyder defense to give Van a 6-4 lead.
Snyder continued the seesaw affair in the bottom of the inning, taking advantage of two more Lady Vandal miscues to tie the score at 6-6. Lady Vandal starting pitcher Gandy got two quick outs to start the inning, but a walk, and another fielding error helped Snyder pull within one run.
Van appeared to be out of the inning on the following batter, but umpires called an illegal pitch on Gandy giving another pitch to Snyder’s Adrianna Hernandez.
Hernandez capitalized on the opportunity, delivering an RBI double to tie things at 6-6. Gandy was knocked from the mound moments later after umpires charged her with another illegal pitch call, her seventh violation of the game. Autumn McKinney came in to put out the fire, recording the final out of the inning.
The Lady Vandal offense regained its momentum in the top of the fourth, capitalizing on every Snyder mistake to take a 13-6 lead.
Cotton, Castillo and Carter each drew walks with one out in the inning. Lovett gave Van the lead by driving in two with a single, followed by Kylee Moore driving in two with a two RBI double.
Gandy singled, followed by a fielder’s choice. McKinney and Nichols each took advantage of the two-out situation, driving in runs to help Van seize the seven run advantage.
The score would remain 13-6 in favor of Van until the bottom of the fifth inning, when strung together five consecutive singles to score three runs. McKinney got Snyder’s cleanup hitter to pop out for the first out of the inning, before another Lady Vandal miscue gave the Lady Tigers life.
Van committed yet another error in the game on a grounder to allow another runner to score, cutting the Lady Vandal lead to 13-10.
With runners on first and third, Van finally got the big play it needed. McKinney cleanly fielded a grounder and threw to first for the second out of the inning. The Lady Vandals then caught the Snyder runner cheating her way down the third base line, throwing home and tagging out the runner for the inning ending double play.
Van plated its final two runs in the sixth, extending their lead to 15-10, while McKinney and the Lady Vandal defense kept Snyder in check until the bottom of the seventh.
Down to their final three outs, the Lady Tigers began their final at bats with a pop out. Another fielding error put a runner on first. The damage was nearly neutralized, with McKinney striking out the next Snyder batter to move the Lady Vandals within one out of advancing to the championship game.
Another fielding error helped extend the game, making the score 15-11. Snyder drew closer still with an RBI single. The next Lady Tiger reached base on the eighth and final Van fielding error of the game, sending the go-ahead batter to the plate.
Adriana Hernandez was the next hitter, lining a single to short right center to drive in a run. Lady Vandal centerfielder Carter made a spectacular play on the hit, catching the ball cleanly off a short hop and throwing a strike to home plate to gun down an aggressive Snyder base runner and ending the game.
The offensive output by Van and Snyder helped set the new benchmark for the highest combined score in a state tournament game with 28.
The Lady Vandals were scheduled to take on the win
ner of La Grange (38-2) and Huffman Hargrave (30-5) at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 31, in the 3A State Championship game.