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Lady Deer’s bid for state berth derailed by more Katy fireworks in 12-3 defeat

May 24, 2019

HOUSTON - It took the best-hitting high school softball team to come out of Region III in God knows how long to finally end Deer Park’s fine season.

Katy’s attack, muzzled for most of the opening four innings, used the fifth and sixth innings to explode for 11 runs on 10 hits to claim a 12-3 Game 2 victory and the Region III championship at the University of Houston Thursday night.

The Lady Deer, attempting to bounce back from a 1-0 deficit in a best-of-3 series for the second week in a row, were an out away from going into the sixth inning deadlocked at 2-2.

But in the space of just two batters, Katy owned a 7-2 advantage and the Lady Tigers were all but on their way to Austin. Katy would add five more runs in the sixth, giving the District 19-6A champions 23 runs for the two Region III championship series games.

“Sometimes one play makes a difference like that. We have to have breaks fall our way against Katy and we didn’t have that today. They’re really good. They hit the ball really hard,” said Lady Deer head coach Errica Cantu, whose club finished with a 7-3 state playoff ledger.

For the two contests, Katy’s team batting average was a sizzling .481 after collecting 26 hits in 54 at-bats. Deer Park as a team hit .244 after finishing with 11 hits over 45 at-bats. If Katy gets anything close to that average at state, the Lady Tigers will be difficult to derail.

“They can hit the ball one through nine. They’re stacked and I respect them for that. But the first game, we missed a lot of spots and made a lot of defensive errors. We came out fighting, but they continued the pressure and we didn’t. Hats off to them for that,” said catcher Jasie Roberts, fighting back tears.

Alyssa LeBlanc drove in five RBIs during the onslaughts of the fifth and sixth innings, including a three-run homer in the fifth that created the 7-2 lead.

But it was the batter before LeBlanc that had Deer Park fans all upset. With the bases loaded, Chloe Cobb hit a chopper to second baseman Sara Vanderford. Vanderford raced to the second-base bag, looking for the inning-ending forceout, but the Katy runner slid feet first across the bag maybe a fraction of a second before Vanderford reached the bag. Lady Deer fans saw a huge out, but the most important person - the ump - didn’t.

Not only did the fielder’s choice score a run but Kailey Wyckoff came sprinting home from second base, while the Lady Deer seemed stunned at the call.

Now down 4-2, Cantu came out to argue the call, her second trip to argue a call on this day, but it was to no avail. Seconds later, LeBlanc was launching Katy’s fifth home run of the series, creating the 7-2 lead.

Then came a Sydney Blakeman solo homer in the sixth along with a two-RBI double by Cobb and a two-RBI single by LeBlanc, all after two outs.

Freshman pitcher Madison Applebe was the starting and losing pitcher for the second time, but this time, she was getting outs as in four innings of two-hit ball. Katy’s batters couldn’t stay away from the fly ball, hitting five to the outfield, three of them to Alaina Cortez in center.

Vanderford ended her high school career in strong fashion by nearly hitting for the cycle. She doubled in the first, homered in the fifth and singled in the seventh.

Kaurie Winters gave Deer Park its only advantage in the two games when she connected for a solo homer in the second inning with two outs, creating a 2-1 Lady Deer lead.

“There was not much about it, I just knew my team needed me at that moment. I just kind of swung the bat as hard as I could and prayed to God it went out. Katy’s a good team, I gotta give it to’em,” said Winters, believing it was an inside rise ball that she hit. “I was just waiting on the inside pitch. That’s what I normally hit.”

It was a crazy season everywhere but on the diamond for the Lady Deer. The ITC tank farm fire in March that had the team playing district games on strange fields just to get away from the potential health hazards of the smoke and Mother Nature playing hard ball with first a wet, wet February that cancelled or postponed tournaments and then forcing the Lady Deer to play two of its 10 postseason games way up in Madisonville, outside of Region III.

“It was the most team attitude I’ve ever been a part of. The Dawson series, that was such a team. We had some unexpected bumps in the road. Our majority of our juniors had made a pact I guess or something so that we were going to graduate on the field,” Roberts said.

“I’m just proud of the girls this year. Anytime you transition from another head coach, the transition can be rough. But they were all with me, fought with me and they played for me and that’s all I can ask for,” said an emotional Cantu.

ravery@hcnonline.com

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