A devastating loss in the playoffs last May fueled the Hays softball team’s push to state this year.
“We’ve been waiting 365 days for this moment,” Hays coach Aaron Fuller said after his Lady Rebels slipped past Leander 4-3 for the Region IV championship Saturday night in Kerrville.
Hays advances to the UIL state softball tournament for the first time. The Lady Rebels (30-10) will face Aledo (40-3) in a Class 4A semifinal at noon Friday at McCombs Field.
It didn’t take long for junior pitcher Sarah Leal to learn this year’s Hays team had the proper ingredients to be a state contender. “You could just tell from the very first day of practice,” Leal said after pitching the Lady Rebels to Saturday’s victory.
Leal and Fuller said last year’s run — which ended with a third-round playoff loss to Canyon — helped change the culture of Hays softball.
Leal (24-4) has received offensive support from Texas Lutheran-bound Brayden Pinckard (.557, 11 triples, 40 RBIs) and Temple College-bound Clarissa Gonzalez (.435, five homers, 59 RBIs).
Hays will have a mighty challenge against Aledo, which enters the state tournament riding a 24-game winning streak. Aledo, which swept a pair of games against Wolfforth Frenship over the weekend to win the Region I title, has scored at least 10 runs in 15 of those games.
Much of Aledo’s success is tied to sophomore pitcher Lauren Craine (30-2). In Aledo’s only other state appearance, the Ladycats won the 2008 4A championship with a 4-0 victory over Nederland in 15 innings.
Among the players to watch in the tournament is La Grange shortstop Alyssa Angel, who committed to the University of Texas.
The junior (.533, 41 stolen bases) helped top-ranked La Grange sweep Sealy 11-1 and 8-1 in the Class 3A Region IV championship.
San Benito (34-2) became the first team from the Rio Grande Valley to qualify for the UIL state tournament when the Greyounds upset Smithson Valley 4-1 in the Class 5A Region IV championship Saturday in Laredo. They were led by 4-foot-10-inch junior pitcher Amber Jasso, who tossed a four-hitter against the Rangers, the defending 4A state champions.
This is the first time in UIL softball history that no teams from the San Antonio area qualified for state.
The Class 4A state championship game will be at 1 p.m. Saturday, and the 5A title game will follow at 4 p.m.
UIL state softball tournament
Wednesday-Saturday, McCombs Field
TV: FSSW (Class 4A and 5A semifinals Friday, Class 3A final Saturday); FSSW Plus (Class 4A and 5A finals Saturday)
Tickets: $5, students; $10, adults; $85, all-tournament pass
Class 1A semifinals
9 a.m.: Ivanhoe Sam Rayburn (30-2) vs. Albany (26-3)
Noon: Weimar (33-3) vs. Beckville (29-8)
Class 2A semifinals
3 p.m.: Pilot Point (38-2-1) vs. Garrison (23-9)
6 p.m.: Santa Gertrudis Academy (38-4) vs. Hawley (31-7)
Class 3A semifinals
9 a.m.: Burkburnett (31-5-1) vs. Lufkin Hudson (36-7-1)
Noon: La Grange (38-3) vs. Mineola (30-8)
Class 1A and 2A finals
3 p.m.: Class 1A final
6 p.m.: Class 2A final
Class 4A semifinals
9 a.m.: Richmond Foster (31-4) vs. Lucas Lovejoy (34-8)
Noon: Aledo (40-3) vs. Hays (30-10)
Class 5A semifinals
3 p.m.: Humble Kingwood (34-3) vs. Deer Park (37-4)
6 p.m.: San Benito (34-2) vs. Lewisville (29-13)
Class 3A, 4A and 5A finals
10 a.m.: Class 3A final
1 p.m.: Class 4A final
4 p.m.: Class 5A final