MOUNT PLEASANT — Mineola head coach Jana Nance is very clear that her team is not going to let up until it is wearing a state championship ring.
Linden-Kildare now has the message.
Mineola overwhelmed the Lady Tigers, scoring 20 runs on 18 hits to win 20-0 in Game 1 of their best-of-three Class 2A Region III Final softball series Friday at Northeast Texas Community College.
The game was called after five innings because of the mercy rule.
No. 4 Mineola (31-1) is now one win away from overcoming the hurdle that tripped them up from reaching Austin last year. Linden-Kildare, ranked No. 3 in Class 2A, drops to 30-4 with the loss.
Game 2 is scheduled for 5 p.m. today, also at Northeast Texas CC. If a third game is needed it will begin at 7 p.m.
The Lady Jackets took the extra base, relentlessly stole bases and scored on any mistake — and all of this after Mineola took a 9-0 lead in the first inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Mineola pitcher Rikkilyn Hass could’ve allowed a run to score and get the sure out, but instead forced the girl back to third base.
She then retired the next two batters to secure the shutout.
“That was sweet,” Nance said. “We came in here saying that we aren’t going to let up. We can’t be satisfied with just a one-run game. We were here last year and left broken (after losing) and we know how that feels and we don’t ever want that feeling again.”
Hass allowed three hits with one strikeout for the win, twice getting out of bases-loaded situations.
Taylor Wells took the loss for Linden-Kildare.
Multiple Mineola Lady Jackets finished with multi-hit games, led by shortstop Brittney Johnson who finished a home run away from the cycle. She had two singles, a double, triple, two RBIs and three runs scored.
Ali Galaz got Mineola rolling with one swing in the top of the first. After Johnson led off the game with a double and Courtney Hudgins reached on an error, Galaz launched a 2-2 pitch deep over the left-field fence for a three-run homer, her fourth of the season.
Galaz had a chance to add to her tally later in the inning when Mineola batted around to bring her to the plate with the bases loaded. But Linden-Kildare stunned everyone by not giving her that chance.
“When I saw bases loaded I got the plate thinking wow, this is the perfect time to get a big hit. Then when I saw they were (intentionally) walking me, I was just so mad,” Galaz said. “I actually have never had that happen to me before.”
The move backfired when Morgan Cantron followed with a two-run single to make it 9-0. Galaz was walked her next three plate appearances with Cantron finishing with three singles.
The Lady Jackets tacked on four runs in the third before erupting again in the fifth with seven more.
Mineola’s biggest challenge now is forgetting about Friday’s lopsided win and be ready for today’s Game 2, something Galaz said Mineola will not have a problem doing.
“This happened before when we beat a team and thought the second time we played them that we had it sewn up,” Galaz said. “We lost, so we know what we need to do.”
Class 2A Region III Final
Mineola 20, Linden-Kildare 0 (5 innings)
At Northeast Texas CC, Mount Pleasant
Mineola leads series 1-0
Mineola 903 07 — 20 18 0
L-K 000 00 — 0 3 4
Rikkilyn Hass and Morgan Cantron; Taylor Wells and Shanice Love. W – Hass. L – Well. 2B – M: Brittney Johnson, Marisa Ledkins. 3B – M: Johnson. HR – M: Ali Galaz (two runners on, first inning).
RECORDS – Mineola 31-1; Linden-Kildare 30-4
NEXT UP – Game 2: Mineola vs. Lindale-Kildare, 5 p.m. today at Northeast Texas Community College, Mount Pleasant. Game 3, if necessary, scheduled for 7 p.m.