AP NEWS

Cougarettes ride early surge to Game 1 win

May 2, 2019

New Braunfels Canyon softball coach Kevin Randle knew this season would be about patience and growth.

The Cougarettes were hit hard by graduation and lost the nucleus of a team that was a win shy of capturing a state championship. Newcomers, most with little or no varsity experience, had to fill the void.

But Canyon’s few holdovers have provided guidance. They did again Wednesday as the Cougarettes continued defense of their Region IV-6A crown.

Propelled by an early offensive surge, Canyon topped MacArthur 7-3 in Game 1 of a Class 6A second-round series at North East ISD Complex.

Game 2 is 7:30 p.m. today at New Braunfels Canyon High School.

“I feel like we’re maybe a little bit more balanced than we’ve been in years,” Randle said. “We’ve got some youth, got some experience. The seniors are doing an excellent job of leading this group.”

The leadership was integral as Canyon (29-5) scored three runs in each of the first two innings to grab control.

In the second inning, senior shortstop Sydney Belvin belted a bases-loaded double to bring home Kinley Naizer, Catherine Kuhn and Mia Macchia, who each reached on infield hits.

Belvin’s hit came during a frame in which Canyon sent nine players to the plate, and after MacArthur (30-8) had closed to within 3-2 in the bottom of the first on RBI singles from freshman designated player Madison Collins and junior pitcher Elizabeth Montes.

“We’re definitely not a big hitting team, but if we can put our hits together, anything can happen,” said Belvin, a McNeese State signee who was 2 for 4 with two doubles and four RBIs.

On this occasion, though, the Cougarettes flexed their muscles at the plate.

Senior pitcher Aliyah Pritchett, a Baylor signee, had a two-run homer in the first. She was intentionally walked in her next three at-bats. Junior first baseman Hunter Vestal blasted a solo shot to left field to lead off the top of the fifth inning.

“I just wanted to get something started, get the ball in play, then give my teammates a chance to bring it in, said Vestal, a Bucknell commit.

Macchia, a junior outfielder and one of four key returnees, was 1 for 3 with a walk and two runs.

MacArthur, which defeated O’Connor in three games in bidistrict, added its final run in the bottom of the sixth when catcher Sarah Montes walked to lead off the frame, moved to second on a fielder’s choice, stole third, and scored on third baseman Bryley Westfahl’s two-out infield hit.

“We know that they’re going to pressure us all night long,” Randle said of MacArthur. “They got kids that can hit — and hit well. We know we’re going to have to make some defensive stops.”

tthomas@express-news.net

Twitter: @en_terrence