By Colin Bado, TSB Staff
ROCKWALL – Less than 24 hours after defeating the Rockwall Yellowjackets at home on Friday night, the McKinney Boyd softball team ventured an hour southeast to Rockwall. Coming off a 3-1 win in Game 1 of their 5A UIL Region Quarterfinal series, a large caravan of fans draped in blue and red were eagerly awaiting a possible series sweep.
With two standout pitchers competing Saturday afternoon in Boyd’s Erin Riding and Rockwall’s Kayla Vandergriff, the second game in this best-of-three series was scoreless after five innings. In the top of the sixth inning with two outs and a runner on second, McKinney Boyd’s catcher Maddy VonHagel stepped into the batter’s box. With a full count against VonHagel, Vandergriff threw her trusted changeup. Instead of being fooled by the pitch, VonHagel patiently waited on the ball and sent it flying into deep left field.
Rockwall’s Peyton Mills sprinted back to make the catch but the ball bounced off her mitt, hitting the ground and rolling towards the outfield wall.
Boyd fans screamed in elation as Cassandra Heller sprinted from second base to home, and she slid to the plate safely as the throw from left field did not reach the catcher. Led by Boyd head coach Mo Fritz, the entire dugout ran and raised their arms to celebrate with Henry as she jogged back. VonHagel grinned from second base as she received a standing ovation from the Lady Bronco fans.
That would be all the run support that the Riding and the Lady Broncos would need, as Boyd held on to defeat Rockwall 1-0 and sweep the series 2-0. Boyd will play the winner of Atascocita-The Woodlands in the Regional Semifinal next week.
The District 10-5A champions have swept their first three playoff opponents in order, including the 12-5A champion Rockwall Yellowjackets.
“We’re extremely excited,” said Fritz. “I’m speechless. The girls have worked really hard to get to where they are. They are playing with a lot of confidence right now.”
For a team that endured injuries and tough early season losses, Frtitz said the Lady Broncos’ “team before me” mentality has been the main reason for their deep playoff run.
“It’s all about the team,” said Fritz. “The girls have a willingness about them. They understand the big picture. The girls go where we need them to go and play any position we need them to play.”
Sophomore Riding continues to dominate from the circle, striking out 10 batters in the shutout. In the bottom of the fourth, Rockwall had its best scoring chance as Riding allowed two hits and had runners on the corners. Fortunately for the Lady Broncos, Riding worked her way out of the jam and left the Yellowjackets scoreless.
Boyd had several nice defensive plays in the field, as evident in the sixth inning when second baseman Cassandra Heller made an incredible over-the-shoulder catch, which prevented runners from advancing.
At the plate, Boyd managed just five hits in the game. Two came off the bat of sophomore Bailey-Jo Jones, who led off the fifth and seventh innings with stand up doubles. In the top of the seventh, Vandergriff loaded the bases full of Lady Broncos with no outs. Hoping for an insurance run to increase their one-run lead, the Lady Broncos were denied after Vandergriff struck out three in a row to end the scoring threat.
Riding allowed one hit in the bottom of the seventh inning, but the rally was denied after getting a fly out and ground out to third base to end the game.
Stay tuned to TSB for the latest information on Boyd’s Regional Semifinal series.