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Lady Deer reach Region III title round by eliminating Katy Tompkins 7-3

May 18, 2019

MANVEL - After Wednesday night, it looked liked and smelled like an all Katy ISD championship party for Region III fastpitch softball supremacy.

With Katy High School dismantling Alvin in straight games in the other Region III semifinal meeting, Katy Tompkins had Deer Park against the ropes after Wednesday night’s 4-3 victory.

But the Lady Deer turned out to be Katy ISD party poopers.

Deer Park raced out to a 5-0 advantage after two innings, using that start to capture a decisive 7-3 Game 3 semifinal victory over Katy Tompkins at Manvel High School Friday night.

“As I’ve said before, these girls are resilient. They set goals at the beginning of the year and they keep knocking them down,” first-year Lady Deer head coach Errica Cantu said.

Resilient is right. From overcoming 7-0 deficits in their final at-bat in little towns along Interstate 45 to overcoming 1-0 deficits in a best-of-3 series in Manvel, this Lady Deer bunch keeps on ticking.

Cantu will meet with Katy High coaches on Monday to iron out time and place for the Region III grand finale, Deer Park’s fifth such grand finale over the last eight seasons.

“This is so exciting. We needed something to push us further ahead. It felt so good to help my team out,” said Courtney Plocheck, whose dramatic bases-loaded, three-RBI triple in the second proved to be the game-winning runs.

Madison Applebe was the starting and winning pitcher for the second consecutive night, working 42/3 innings, before Addison Lehew picked up the save by pitching no-hit ball over the final 21/3 innings.

“My game plan was to just get outs because I know in those situations you can’t aim for strikeouts because it’s not going to end up working in your favor,” Lehew said. “So my goal was to go up there, pitch strikes and get outs. A major respect for my defense for pulling me out of that. I couldn’t have done it without the defense behind me.”

In typical Tompkins fashion, the Lady Falcons put the ball in play. Deer Park’s infield gloves were responsible for the final seven outs that Lehew was in the circle. Shortstop Amaya Montano was 3-for-3 in chances. Her best play was smothering a sizzling grounder off the bat of Avery Hodge to start the seventh.

“She was my biggest out. I faced her in select. She was the one girl I knew that I had faced before. I needed that out because she’s the leadoff batter in the top of the seventh and I needed that out. I knew what she could do. I had to throw her something she couldn’t touch. When you’re facing a team like that, you have to have an off-speed (pitch) to keep them off-balance,” Lehew said.

Lehew was brought in because Tompkins began to create some mischief on the basepaths. Five of the last seven batters that Applebe faced had stroked singles, including a Kat Ibarra single that drove in two, reducing Tompkins’ deficit to 5-3.

“I brought her in to do just that. She’s left-handed so it gives a completely different look than what Madison Applebe had done for two-and-a-half games. She still did a great job in the circle. But yes, Addison came in, gave a different look and did well,” Cantu said.

Prior to the sudden surge of singles, Applebe had pitched one-hit ball for the opening 32/3 innings. Tompkins found the scoreboard in the fourth but Deer Park’s defense prevented a second score.

Lauren Hall was turned away from scoring by a strong throw from center fielder Alaina Cortez. Hall made it back to third but alertly the defense tagged Brooke Lorenzon out as she found herself caught in no-man’s land between second and third base for the third out.

The Lady Deer watered down Tompkins’ two-run uprising in the top of the fifth when the team got both back in the home half of the fifth. And it all started with a catcher’s high throw to first base.

Cortez had put down a nice bunt and when the catcher’s throw to first was just high enough to cause the first baseman to jump up a bit to snare it in the webbing of her glove, she was ruled safe.

It put into motion Deer Park’s sixth run. The first baseman walked away from the bag holding the ball, not realizing that Cortez began to wander towards second base.

In taking their eye off Morado for just two seconds was enough for her to score, steaming for home with the sixth run.

Cortez, meanwhile, stole second on the belated throw home. That paid off handsomely seconds later when Montano singled her home.

Bottom line, a less-than-accurate throw to first caused all kinds of havoc on the basepaths for the Lady Falcons, all but killing their growing momentum.

Jasie Roberts had staked the team to a 1-0 lead in the first off losing pitcher Ashley Martinec, before the decisive second.

Montano and Kaurie Winters had singled and Sara Vanderford had walked when Plocheck decided not to let the count grow too large. On the second offering from Martinec, she sent a screaming liner to the outfield that didn’t get tracked down until it reached the outfield fence.

Haidyn Hardcastle, who had her own three-bagger to the fence in the fourth, would single home Plocheck, raising the lead to 5-0.

The trip to the regional finals is an awesome achievement for Cantu’s Crew, but for four players, a manager and a trainer, they’ll apparently receive their diplomas on the softball diamond.

“Graduating on the softball field was one of the goals and we’re there,” Cantu said.

NOTES: In games 2 and 3, the two teams combined for only six strikeouts, just two in Friday’s game. … Of Tompkins’ opening seven outs, six were fly balls. In Thursday’s and Friday’s games, Roberts, in right field, tallied seven outs. … With the wind blowing in, it may have prevented a Vanderford home run to start Deer Park’s first inning. It had the look of a homer when it left the bat, before the center fielder caught it.

ravery@hcnonline.com

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