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Smith, Lady Pioneers win state title

May 19, 2019

Winning a state championship is anything but a formality, but the Lutheran South Academy softball team knew it cleared a huge hurdle Friday when it knocked off three-time defending state champion Fort Bend Christian Academy.

Thus, when the Lady Pioneers took the field Saturday against Bullard Brook Hill for the Texas Association of Private Schools Division II championship, only the intervention of a false sense of security figured to ruin LSA’s day.

While Bullard Brook Hill made matters interesting in the early innings, Lutheran South used a three-run fourth to pull away to a 6-2 victory to secure the state title.

LSA senior pitcher Shelby Smith, a Seton Hall commit, allowed just three hits, no earned runs and struck out 18.

She fanned the side in the first, second, fourth, fifth and seventh innings.

“I told myself I just needed to focus and stay in the game because once you let the crowd get involved, it’s hard to stay focused,” Smith said.

“We were a little off our game early, but then we came together about the third inning. I felt then we were going to make it happen. I’ve been at LSA since sixth grade and played softball in middle school.

“Winning state has always been an underlying goal. We never said that was our goal, but that’s what we wanted.”

Junior catcher Lauren Whitney produced the offensive heroics for Lutheran South as she doubled in each of her first three at-bats and also walked to cap a perfect day at the plate.

The Lady Pioneers (21-3) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning after freshman Lily Psencik delivered a one-out infield single and Smith followed with a single to right.

Whitney then doubled off the out-stretched glove of Bullard Brook Hill’s centerfielder to bring home the first run. LSA sophomore first baseman Ashley Foret then hit into a 1-3 putout, allowing the second run to cross the plate.

Brook Hill closed the gap to 2-1 in the second after LSA made two errors on balls hit by Sophia Arno and McKenna Lovelady. The second miscue allowed Arno to score, but Smith would stop the damage there as she struck out three batters in between the errors and a walk.

LSA then created some breathing room in the fourth by opening a 5-1 lead.

That rally began with senior Anna Jones’ one-out single to left, and Psencik followed with a bunt single up the first-base line.

After Smith popped up for the second out, it appeared Brook Hill might emerge from the trouble unscathed.

However, Whitney ripped a double to left-centerfield, bringing home both runners for a 4-1 score. Foret then hit a grounder to third base, and an errant throw to first allowed LSA’s fifth run to score.

Brook Hill’s final run came in the bottom of the fourth after a one-out double by Arno. Smith fanned the next batter for the second out, but a passed ball and a wild pitch quickly followed to make the score 5-2.

LSA scored its final run in the sixth after two outs had been recorded.

Whitney drew a walk, and Foret singled to center. An error moved both runners into scoring position and Jacqueline Lachney then punched a single to right to make it 6-2.

Smith retired the side in order in the sixth, and then fanned the final three batters in the seventh after a lead-off single from Arno.

Whitney said her team couldn’t afford to be complacent after Friday’s win.

“We didn’t want to take this game lightly,” she said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game and great competition.

“We didn’t want to be cocky, but we wanted to be confident in ourselves. It was very important to get our momentum going early. Usually, we do better when we score first. That helped us get more runs later on.”

LSA head coach Nicole Andrade tried to instill fire in her team from the outset.

“I told them it was a brand new day and that we needed to refocus and get our minds right,” Andrade said. “We scored in the first inning, but we were a little shaky after that. (Brook Hill) started out pretty strong, and then we put up three runs and stared calming down.

“Overall, I thought the girls did an amazing job. Lolo Whitney came up huge for us this game. And Shelby…18 strikeouts. You can’t ask for anything more. She’s been a great part of LSA.

Our first goal was to win district and then next was to win state. We did it one pitch at a time. The energy was amazing throughout the year. Our motto was if we stay together and play together, we’ll win. The girls did that.”

tdunnam@hcnonline.com

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