Let the record show that a four-run third inning Tuesday gave the Hays Rebels softball team enough support in a 6-3 district win over the Bowie Bulldogs.
But the result, as important as it was, paled in comparison to the awe and wonder on the faces of Rebel players, fans and coaches who for the first time got to experience a real game in the program’s new $3.5 million on-campus diamond.
“We’re learning what plays we can do and trust each other on. It really bonded us together and molded us.”
–Megan Kelnar, Rebel player
While there’s still some adjusting to do, Hays Rebel Megan Kelnar said making history and notching the inaugural win at their new digs was “amazing.”
“It’s a new field and new opportunities and for the team, we were all excited,” Kelnar said. “We were kind of nervous for some new field jitters, but we were all excited. It’s super nice.”
Tuesday’s contest was only the second time Rebel players had stepped foot on the new diamond. Lisa Cone, Hays head softball coach, said her players were excited and energetic during Monday’s first-ever practice at the new stadium; the same feelings carried over into their game.
“They were excited about it and the new facility helped to pump them up a little bit,” Cone said.
Once the pomp and circumstance was done, Hays didn’t waste time getting back to business. Hays jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the second frame, aided by a Bowie throwing error.
The Rebels turned to the bottom of their lineup to pad the lead in the next frame. A leadoff single from Rebel Jordan Tovar was followed by a one-out RBI base hit from Annaliese Rodriguez, which increased Hays’ lead to 2-0.
The lead grew to 4-0 after Kelnar ripped a two-run RBI double later in the frame; Kelnar later scored on an RBI single from Kaylin Davis.
Kelnar said patience at the plate paid dividends in scoring the first extra-base RBI hit in the stadium’s history.
“I had to take a deep breath and then just threw my hands out,” Kelnar said. “I was super happy and pumped.”
Meanwhile, Hays obtained solid play from starting pitcher Max Valdez, who struck out seven batters while conceding only one walk and no hits in three innings of work.
Backing up Valdez was freshman pitcher Katie Noble who earned the win by going the final four frames. Between them, Valdez and Noble stranded seven total Bulldog runners on the base paths.
The Bulldogs, however, fought back by scoring two runs in the fourth frame, followed by a run in the fifth inning.
Hays closed the door in the sixth frame via a bases-loaded walk that scored Amaya Guerrero. Success at the plate, especially at the bottom of the lineup, has made crafting the lineup “kind of tough,” Cone said.
“It’s nice to know top to bottom we have power,” Cone said.
Hays now looks to capitalize on their new found momentum. That includes winning Lehman’s inaugural softball tournament last weekend
Kelnar said going through the tournament helped to improve team cohesion.
“We’re learning what plays we can do and trust each other on,” Kelnar said. “It really bonded us together and molded us.”