By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
GEORGETOWN – Entering Friday night, the McKinney Boyd Lady Bronco softball team was on a tear through the playoffs. With a perfect 7-0 record in postseason play, the Lady Broncos were one victory away from wrapping up the program’s first trip to the UIL Class 5A Region II final.
It had been a month and a half since the last loss for the Lady Broncos, but their seven-game playoff-winning streak and 10-game overall winning streak was snapped after a 2-0 shutout loss to The Woodlands Lady Highlanders in game two of the Region II semifinal best-of-3 series and a 3-2 extra-inning loss in game three.
The teams took a 30-minute break after game two of the sereies Friday night before returning to Eastview H.S. field for the winner-take-all game three.
For much of that game, things looked good for Boyd. Holding on to a 2-0 lead, the Lady Broncos entered the bottom of the sixth inning needing six more outs to claim the series win. Boyd starting pitcher Erin Riding, who had thrown 91 pitches in the previous game, was nearing triple digits in her pitch count as the Lady Broncos were looking to close out The Woodlands.
Unfortunately for Boyd, the No. 5 state-ranked Lady Highlanders scrapped together a run in the sixth and seventh inning, tying the game at 2-2 on a RBI single up the middle off the bat of Abby Langkamp. Riding and the Lady Broncos would get out of the inning with runners on second and third, sending the game into extra innings.
After going down in order in the top of the eighth, the Lady Highlanders went to bat needing a run to end the game and the series. Back-to-back one-out singles by Aubrey Leach and Alyssa Jorgensen put runners at first and second. Sydney Salmans grounded out to third, advancing both runners up a base with two outs.
Needing one more strike to escape yet another jam, Riding’s 125th pitch to Taylor Vick sliced down the right field line and appeared as if it might land foul. As Boyd right fielder Riley Wagner gave chase, the ball bounced just a couple feet fair as Leach sprinted home for the game-winning run, sealing the 3-2 extra inning win.
“I am extremely proud of my girls,” said Boyd head coach Moe Fritz. “It has been a great season. They played hard and it was a great series against a great team. Offensively they are quick and fast, and overall I thought it was a great series.”
Boyd’s historic season ended with a record of 24-13-1 and resulted in the longest playoff run in program history. With a starting lineup that consisted of just one senior and six sophomores, Fritz believes it won’t be long before the Lady Broncos are back in this game again soon.
“They are still really young and the deeper we go each year, the confidence will just keep growing and growing,” said Fritz.
In the circle, Riding picked up both losses to fall to 7-2 in the playoffs. In two games, the sophomore pitcher gave up five runs on 12 hits, striking out 10 and walking just four.
At the plate, Boyd struggled against Caitlin Bartsch in game two and Langkamp in game three. Bartsch, a University of Nebraska commit, changed speeds with her pitches effectively to keep the Lady Bronco hitters off balanced. She allowed just four hits in the game two shut out win.
In game three, Langkamp went all eight innings and allowed just one earned run. Sophomore Carly Nicklas had an RBI fielder choice in the fifth inning after slapping a ball back to Langkamp with Maddy VonHagel on third base. Upon contact, VonHagel took off for the plate as Langkamp came up with the ball and fired it home. Despite the throw being accurate, VonHagel beat the tag by Lady Highlanders’ catcher Brittany Kellett, giving Boyd its first run of the game.
Junior Jill Nicklas had the other RBI for the Lady Broncos, scoring sophomore Cassandra Heller from second base after she reached on an error to start the sixth.
The lone girl to play her final game in a Boyd uniform on Friday night was senior outfielder Mo McDonald, who went hitless in the two games from the leadoff spot after going 2-for-4 with an RBI in game one on Thursday. After the game Fritz was emotional discussing the departure of McDonald, losing the last building block she had from her first year as the Boyd head coach.
“She is a kid that will work,” said Fritz. “She is my hardest worker and will do anything I ask her to do. She is one of those kids you just love to coach and have in your program, and she is such a leader in the sense that she leads with her actions. She just busts her butt to get it done and she has fun doing it. She has definitely left her thumbprint on this program.
“Four years ago her and I started her together, and I would have to say we have come a long way. She was the one girl I had who was the building block for this program, and we met it after that. With the expectations she helped build, she passed that on to everyone else and had them step it up. I am going to miss her. I am going to miss her a lot.”
Through all the injuries and the struggles the team went through this season, Fritz said she would remember this group of players for several reasons, but one attribute stood out above the rest.
“Their fight,” she said. “They have overcome so much this year, so many injuries, and we just had to move so many people around. The flexibility, fight, and the perseverance of those girls are what stood out.”