By Moses Leos III
With the season on the line Friday, Hays Lady Rebel senior Haleigh Madden made her first hit of the series against the Cedar Ridge Lady Raiders a memorable one.
A solo home run from Madden in the seventh frame was the catalyst for Hays, which returned in the eighth inning to notch a 7-6 walk-off win.
For Madden, relaxing and letting instinct take over proved the difference.
“When I saw the first pitch, it just looked like a good pitch and I just swung,” Madden said. “It was the right thing to do, apparently, because the ball went over (the fence).”
Hays’ win ties the best-of-three bidistrict playoff series 1-1. It forces a one game, winner-take-all with Cedar Ridge Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Hays Lady Rebel softball field.
But Hays’ journey toward forcing a decisive third game got off to a rocky start.
In a near mirror image of game one, Cedar Ridge plated a trio of runs in one inning to grab hold of a lead. The Lady Raiders held a 3-0 advantage before Hays rallied back in the third.
Led off by an Alyssa Martinez walk, Hays proceeded to notch three runs in the inning to tie the game 3-3.
Helping Hays’ offense was continued adjustments to Cedar Ridge pitcher Breanna Hernandez. Cone said the Lady Rebels started “to see her tendencies” as she’s pitched every inning against Hays.
Other adjustments, according to Madden, included staying patient at the plate.
“We can’t start guessing which pitch is going to come, and we have to drive it like we know how to do,” she said.
Cedar Ridge fought back in the fourth inning, kick started by a Hays error. An RBI single from AJ Williams, followed by a RBI double from Christina McDowell two batters later gave Cedar Ridge a 5-3 lead.
While Hays limited the number of miscues from Thursday, the Lady Rebel defense committed five errors in game two.
For Cone, using offense to rectify mistakes became the tactic.
“We told them to keep their composure and to keep playing their game,” she said. “And we always say to make up for (mistakes) with their bats. And that’s what we did.”
The Lady Rebels took the mindset to heart in the seventh inning. Angelica Arroyo led off with a base hit and scored on a throwing error.
But Hays was down to its final out as Madden approached the plate. It took one pitch and one swing for Madden to tie the game and force extra innings.
“When I first hit it, I felt like it was a home run, but I sprinted to first base because I didn’t want to be wrong,” Madden said.
Cone said the hit got the Lady Rebels “pumped” and that no one “was going to give up after that point.”
But the Lady Raiders scored a run in an emotional eighth inning which featured an overturned double play call, a close play at the plate, and three umpire conferences.
Hays rallied once again in the bottom half of the eight. A walk drawn by senior Aspen Salazar later turned into a run after a series of Cedar Ridge errors. The Lady Raiders loaded the bases for Kaylee Lind, who delivered a walk-off RBI single.
Staying consistent in game three will be the focus for Madden.
“We have to hit like we’ve been hitting and we need to cut down on our errors,” she said. “If we can do that, we can do it.”
Hays’ Nadia Natek earned the win by pitching one inning and giving up one run on a hit. Senior Kara Davis got a no decision after pitching seven innings.