This just in: Smithson Valley’s softball team (25-2 overall) is pretty good.
And so is junior pitcher Bailey Watts.
Watts struck out 17 batters last Thursday night at SVHS in the Rangers; opening round playoff game against the Westlake Chaparrals, paving the way for Megan Turk’s game-winning RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning.
That gave the Rangers a 1-0 win and a 1-0 lead in the series, and Smithson Valley made sure not to give the Chaparrals any momentum the next night in Austin, sweeping the series with a 5-0 victory at Westlake High School behind Paige Hamilton’s 4-4 night at the plate.
But it all started with that exciting finish in game one.
Lead-off hitter Cassie Tysarczyk drew a walk in the bottom of the 10th inning for SV, and was replaced by pinch runner Ashley Freeman.
After a pop up and a single by Watts, the Rangers had runners on first and second with one out and Turk coming to the plate, setting the stage for a dramatic finish.
Turk fell behind in the count 1-2, but stayed alive with a couple of foul balls before slicing an opposite field base hit that scored Freeman and gave Smithson Valley the all-important game one victory.
“I’ve had Megan Turk for four years and I’ll take her any time in a clutch situation,” coach Wayne Daigle said. “She’s a competitor.”
As for Turk, she was just trying to make sure that her pitcher earned the much-deserved win.
“My mind was set on winning the game, on the team, and playing for Bailey [Watts],” Turk said. “Bailey had an awesome game. What’d she have, 17 strikeouts? I’ve never done so many sprints to center field.”
Watts was in control of the game from the first pitch, and kept the Chaparrals out of scoring position for the majority of the night.
Westlake’s first hit of the night came in the top of the sixth inning, as the lead-off hitter got aboard on a single, but Watts atoned by striking out the next three batters she faced to end the inning.
The lesson? Don’t make Bailey Watts angry.
“When I walk somebody or let somebody get on base, it’s on me,” Watts said. “I really want to strike out the next batter and get out of the inning so I can make it up to my team.”
That single proved to be Westlake’s only hit of the game, but Watts did allow another baserunner in the top of the 10th, as the Chaps’ lead-off hitter reached first on a walk and then advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt.
And what happened after that? Back-to-back strikeouts to end the threat. (I told you not to make her mad.)
Despite Watts’ stellar night, the Rangers did have their own troubles getting on base, however.
But all that seemingly changed following an almost comical at-bat by third baseman Tiffany Ward in which she fouled off a ridiculous number of pitches before finally drawing a walk in the seventh inning.
“We counted and I think it was 16,” Turk said. “All of us seniors have really been trying to get our rhythm back, and she really showed that she wants it, and we were all behind her on that one.”
From that point on, Smithson Valley’s batters were energized, making a commitment to working every count.
It paid off.
“I think we finally realized what we were doing wrong,” Daigle said. “We kept being under the ball, but let’s tip our cap to [Westlake’s pitcher] too. What a ballgame she threw – she took it to us.”
The Rangers now advance to play San Antonio Holmes in the area round of the playoffs, with game one set for Friday at the Northside ISD complex at 7 p.m.
Game two will be at SVHS on Saturday at 3 p.m., and game three (if necessary) will begin 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first contest of the afternoon.