After taking a backseat to Van in district play, Mineola motored ahead of its East Texas rival — straight toward Austin.
Ali Galaz homered twice and batted in seven runs to lead Mineola back to the state softball tournament after a 14-6 win over Van in Game 2 of the Class 3A Region II championship series Saturday at UT Tyler Ballpark.
Mineola finished off a sweep one day after beating Van 11-6 in a five-hour long contest lasting past midnight — starting in Tyler and moving 60 miles east to Marshall in the midst of a three-hour delay due to lighting and rain.
For the second straight day, Mineola raced out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning and never trailed, thanks to a 17-hit performance and multi-hit games by five different players.
“We get off the bus focused,” Mineola coach Jana Nance said. “You can’t take anyone lightly at this point. They all want the same thing you want. Who’s going to be the one to step up, take charge, score and put everyone our shoulders? That’s been our motto. That’s how we got it done.”
The win propelled Mineola back to a place they claim to have unfinished business at after losing in the 2A state semifinals a year ago. Mineola placed second in District 15-3A behind Van, and split two regular season meetings with the Lady Vandals before outscoring their rivals 25-12 in the playoff series.
“That’s our drive,” Nance said of last year’s loss in the state semifinals. “We’re not going to be satisfied with just going.”
The Lady Jackets scored the final seven runs after Van rallied back, with Galaz giving Mineola multiple shots in the arm.
Galaz (4 for 4, 7 RBIs, three runs) ripped a solo homer on the first pitch of the fifth inning, moments after Van cut a once seven-run deficit to one, using two-run doubles from Ashlin Lovett (1 for 4, 3 RBIs) and Sierra Nichols (1 for 3, 2 RBIs). Galaz gave Mineola insurance with a three-run homer over the left field fence in the seventh inning to make it an eight-run gap.
“Each at-bat, I knew I had to do something,” said Galaz, a senior outfielder who has signed with Texas Woman’s University. “I was seeing the ball well. It helped get everyone hyped up. We’re beyond pumped to go to state.”
Following an RBI-single from sophomore third baseman Jade Green to start the scoring, Galaz laced an offering to deep center field, scoring two runners and reaching third. The relay throw skipped into the Mineola dugout, allowing Galaz to round home for a four-run difference.
Mineola mastered Van’s standout pitching duo of Nichols on Friday and Autumn McKinney on Saturday, totaling 32 hits in the two games. The handful of players posting multiple-hits in Game 2 included Green (3 for 5, 2 RBIs), senior infielder Marissa Ledkins (3 for 5, RBI), junior pitcher Rikkilyn Hass (3 for 5, RBI) and senior shortstop Brittney Johnson (2 for 4, RBI).
Hallee Carter (3 for 4, two runs) paced Van at the plate.
“Our sticks have come alive in the playoffs,” said Nance, whose team starts only three seniors. “We’ve just started slamming the ball, one through nine.”
Hass retired the final seven batters she faced, and pitched five scoreless innings from the circle. Galaz made a diving grab, followed by a running catch, to finish off a 1-2-3 inning in the sixth. Hass sandwiched a strikeout into two fly outs to seal the deal.
The Class 3A state tournament gets going Thursday with the semifinals (9 a.m.; Noon) at Red and Charline McCombs Field, with the championship game slated for 10 a.m. on Saturday.
After getting her arm heavily iced, Hass summed up the Lady Jackets’ short-term plans: two more games.
“Last year we weren’t satisfied,” Hass said. “We’re determined to win state — no matter what division they put us in. We want to go all the way.”
Class 3A Region II Softball Final
At UT Tyler Softball Field
Mineola 14, Van 6
Mineola 403 030 4 — 14 17 2
Van 003 300 0 — 6 7 2
Rikkilyn Hass and Morgan Catron; Autumn McKinney and Jasmine Gipson. W – Hass (28-6); L – McKinney (12-4). 2B – M: Hass, Manda Wilmoth; V: Ashlin Lovett, Sierra Nichols. 3B – M: Ali Galaz, Marissa Ledkins; V: Hallee Carter. HR – M: Galaz (fifth, solo; seventh, two on). SF – M: Brittney Johnson. SH – V: Nichols.
RECORDS — Mineola 29-8; Van 29-8-1.
NEXT UP — Mineola advances to Class 3A state softball tournament, Thursday in Austin; Van’s season complete.