AUSTIN — Mineola took a second step toward winning it all.
Next year, that is what the Lady Jackets plan to do.
Mineola rallied from 3-2 down in its final at-bat to force extra innings, but ultimately succumbed 4-3 to Alpine on Wednesday afternoon in their Class 2A state softball semifinal at University of Texas’ Red and Charline McCombs Field.
Alpine (32-6) advances to face Crawford in the 2A state final at 6 p.m. today, while Mineola suffered just its second loss of the season to finish at 32-2.
“We showed them our heart and came back in the sixth and seventh inning, but what killed us were errors,” said Mineola coach Jana Nance. “When you get to this level, you have to have flawless everything. We hit the same that they did, but we (committed mistakes they didn’t).”
Trailing 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh, Mineola sophomore pitcher Rikkilyn Hass helped herself with a leadoff single. With one out, Taylor Craver singled just in front of the left fielder and aggressive base running from Mineola courtesy runner Manda Wilmoth enabled the freshman to go first to third, narrowly beating the tag attempt.
Brittney Johnson drove Wilmoth home with a sacrifice fly to center field.
Alpine went back to work in the top of the eighth. Christina Graham singled with out and came all the way around to score on an error when Lauren Hardin’s hard-hit grounder went through the shortstop’s legs.
Mineola tried to answer again in the bottom of the eighth with Ali Galaz walking to lead off, but was stranded as Hardin induced the Lady Jackets into three straight pop outs to end the game.
Hass allowed two earned runs on seven hits with six strikeouts in the loss, setting Alpine down in order in four of her eight innings.
Hardin grabbed the victory, giving up three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts. Hardin induced 15 fly outs as Mineola left six runners on base in the loss.
The Lady Bucks entered play with their 1-2-3 batters hitting .600 or above, and all three came through for Alpine. Sydney McCalister was 2 for 4 with a run scored with Hardin doubling to drive in a run in the sixth and Graham providing the game winner.
“We kind of got away from how we play and (Mineola’s) pitcher was good,” Alpine coach Troy Canaba said. “She was putting the ball in there, high and low and we were chasing; that eighth inning we kind of settled down and got back to the way we play and it worked out for us.”
Alpine grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the second after Dominique Portillo drew a two-out walk and stole second base. The play produced a violent collision with Mineola’s Johnson, prompting a delay as Mineola coaches determined if she could still play. Johnson was able to continue, but was immediately found by Alpine’s next batter, Becky Ruiz, who hit a sharp grounder that narrowly eluded Johnson’s backhand effort for a single to score Portillo.
Both pitchers proceeded to mow down the opposition after that with Alpine finally getting on base again against Hass in the sixth. The Lady Bucks turned it into two more runs, one the conventional way and the other in bizarre fashion.
McCallister doubled to center and scored on a double by Hardin. Alpine catcher Mary-Catherine Saenz then singled to left field. Mineola’s outfielder came up firing, prompting Hardin to hold between third and home, but the throw flew past the catcher, encouraging Hardin to reverse back and try to score. Mineola catcher Morgan Catron quickly retrieved the ball and lunged toward the plate to tag out Hardin.
While all of this was going on, Saenz had gone to second and was trying for third. Catron’s throw to try and nab Saenz at third deflected off her arm, enabling the catcher to come home on an error.
Mineola, which had not had a baserunner since the second inning, was trailing 3-0 when Courtney Hudgins stepped to the plate to lead off the sixth. She singled to center field and came home when Galaz powered a triple over the center fielder’s head. With one out, Mineola used a suicide squeeze from Marisa Ledkins to score Galaz with Ledkins beating the throw for a single.
With the game-tying run at first, Jade Green smacked a line drive that Alpine’s Ruiz was able to jump up and snag before tossing to first to double up Ledkins.
Mineola did tie the game in the seventh, but couldn’t rally again in the eighth.
A year after being stopped in the regional final, Mineola reached state for the first time in school history. Led by an experienced roster, Nance is confident Mineola will be back.
“We have one senior who is going to bigger and better things at college, and these girls, UT will see us again,” Nance said. “We know what it felt like last year to lose to Central Heights one game from coming here and now we know what it's like to lose one game away from going to the finals.
“Next year I have high expectations for us.”
Class 2A State Semifinal
At Red and Charline McCombs Field, Austin
Alpine 4, Mineola 3 (8 innings)
Alpine 010 002 01 — 4 7 1
Mineola 000 002 10 — 3 7 2
Lauren Hardin and Mary-Catherine Saenz; Rikkilyn Hass and Morgan Catron.
W – Hardin (28-4). L – Hass (20-2).
2B – A: Sydney McCallister, Hardin. 3B – M: Ali Galaz.
RECORDS — Alpine 32-6; Mineola 32-2.
NEXT UP — Alpine vs. Crawford, in Class 2A state championship, 6 p.m. today; Mineola season complete.