The Canyon Lake Times Guardian

"The Naturals" Hollywood season ends for Rangers softball team with 5-4 loss

By Paul Heidelberg

After a rain delay, and another switching of the fields, it was as if lightning had struck, as the Smithson Valley High School softball team saw its 4-0 lead disappear into the muggy air in the sixth inning Thursday, as Taft High School scored five runs on multiple deep hits en route to a 5-4 victory to end the Rangers season.

The Rangers, district champions for the 10th year in a row, ranked ninth in the state by the Texas Girls Coaches Association, and 10th in the nation by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association finished the season with a more than respectable 29-3 record after the loss in the Region IV Class 5A Regional Quarterfinal game. The Raiders improved to 29-7.

Minutes after the game's conclusion, Smithson Valley High Coach Wayne Daigle said, "First and foremost, I want to give total credit to the Taft softball team and to Coach [Scott] Libby. They are a very good team. This does not surprise me at all because they they are not going to quit. They fought when they had to fight. This was in them for years. We just had the upper hand, but he has turned the corner. I give all the credit to him and the players and the fans and I wish them all the best of luck through state." Perhaps the Rangers were feeling fatigued after taking their 4-0 lead into the sixth inning, with six outs between them and further post-season play.

The rain began to fall at the San Antonio Independent School District field at Burbank High School, exactly at Thursday's 7 p.m. game time. When the lights failed at the field, the Rangers were probably reminded of the marathon five-hour plus contest with Seguin High School several weeks ago, in the Rangers first post-season game.

In that game, faulty lights at the Seguin High field had teams and fans hitting the highways of Central Texas to race to Bomber Field in New Braunfels, the night's substitute field. In the game, senior Megan Whistler blasted a ball over the left field fence in a scene that seemed to be scripted by a Hollywood scribe, as her team won in the seventh and final inning 1-0 (she was credited with a RBI triple, as officials said she had failed to tag home plate after rounding the bases.)

Unlike the Seguin game, the Rangers didn't have to travel I-35 for Thursday's change of venue, but they did have to move to an adjoining field, and then had to wait for the grounds crew to prepare the field for play.

Daigle even helped carry bases out onto the field to get the field ready for its delayed 8:30 p.m. start.

Unlike the previous meeting with Taft, one of Smithson Valley's two previous losses of the year, which Smithson Valley hosted at Rangers Field, the team was able to hit senior right hander Rebecca Rousseau, who has earned a four-year college scholarship.

In the first inning of Thursday's game, senior Domino Salazar brought home junior Brittany Arredondo for the first score of the game. Arredondo made a great catch in the bottom of the first to help the Rangers hold the Raiders scoreless.

Arredondo later had a RBI bunt to score Tiffany Ward to give the Rangers a 2-0 edge.

Ward had a two-run RBI in the top of the third inning for the Rangers to give Smithson Valley the seemingly comfortable 4-0 lead it held until the bottom of the sixth inning. Daigle's strategy was to alternate his three junior pitchers (that is a plus for next year a great pitching lineup for Smithson Valley): he started with Mallory Meyers, and then brought in Alli Mattice, before bringing in Tori Schwarzlose, before bringing Mattice and Meyers back onto the mound.

"We've had luck all year with rotating our pitchers," Daigle said. "It was just one of those things. I am second-guessing myself and thinking I probably shouldn't have made the pitching changes that I did. Looking back at that it seems everything I did was wrong. So I will take all the credit for that I won't blame it on the girls."

In that fateful sixth inning, it was as if the Raiders had awakened from some long hibernation. They seemed to be able to hit everything, no matter which Rangers pitcher was on the mound.

Just before the inning started, a Taft fan yelled very loudly, "Ok, it's rally time now."

I think the Raiders heard him.

Earlier, in the fifth inning, Rangers left fielder Megan Turk had made a remarkable over-the-shoulder catch; this writer thought it might end up being a game-saving play, as she had stifled a possible Raiders rally.

But in the sixth inning, it seemed that Taft could do no wrong, and they had a very large and vocal fan base to support them.

The game had been moved to a field with a much smaller seating capacity than the first field.

Many Taft fans remained in the bleachers at the first field, viewing the game from a high perspective.

They were the most vocal Taft supporters during the contest.

The Rangers never gave up, however.

Domino Salazar blasted a double in the seventh inning, putting the tying run on base, but the Rangers could not bring her home.

"I told Domino in front of the team after the game," Diagle said, "that when I think of her 20 years from now, I will think of her last at bat, because she was a warrior. She was a warrior, and I will always remember that at bat. She did that for us for the last four years, bless her heart."

The recent games with Seguin High and Taft High are like lessons in life for the Rangers players and fans: Life is full of surprises, you can't always win in life, and life is not always fair. What is very important is how you play the game, how you live your life, and how you deal with loss, and life's tough times.



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