AUSTIN — West’s softball players knew how long head coach Guyla Smith had been waiting for a state championship.
They made sure she wasn’t put on hold much longer.
The Lady Trojans unloaded six runs on seven hits in the first inning and never looked back in the 3A state championship game Thursday night, ending Smith’s 25-year wait for a title with a five-inning, 11-0 pounding of Colorado City Colorado at the University of Texas’ McCombs Field.
Smith, the state’s all-time leader in coaching victories, finally snatched that elusive trophy after five unsuccessful state tournament trips since starting the program in 1991 as a non-UIL club sport. West was state runner-up in 2010 and 2011.
This time, her Lady Trojans (36-7) left no doubt they were the best team in their classification. They unloaded 15 hits on Colorado City (33-9) and finished the tournament without allowing a run.
Just like that, 25 years of waiting concluded with a quick, hour and nine-minute game.
“Absolutely worth it,” Smith said. “What a great group of kids to work with. I couldn’t ask for a better group.”
Despite the big numbers and undeniable command at the plate, West took full control of the contest from the get-go playing small ball. All but one of the Lady Trojans’ hits were singles, as they sprinkled the field with shallow-infield gappers with bunts scattered in between.
Emeri Eubanks was 3 for 3 with three runs and an RBI, while Maddison Kettler, Mia Pokluda and Sierra Reese each collected two hits apiece and combined to drive in seven.
“We’ve worked all year of putting it in play, and we were blessed tonight and we got it in play when we needed to,” Smith said. “It’s a little deeper park. That’s a great ball team we played. They didn’t show it tonight, but they’re pretty scrappy. We watched them play last night, so we knew we had to put the ball in play and score a lot of runs.”
West starting pitcher Danielle Nors (35-5) was named the 3A Championship Game’s Most Valuable Player after her four-hit, six-strikeout complete-game performance to prevent Colorado from tampering with the Lady Trojans’ massive lead.
She fanned five of the first eight hitters she faced and let the defense do the rest. She finished the tournament with 12 scoreless innings after blanking Santa Getrurdis Academy in Wednesday’s semifinal.
“We got all the hits right there (in the first inning), and that got us pumped so we could win the game,” Nors said. “My teammates did great. They got the runs that we needed. I’m so proud of them.”
With as much run support as she had, the nerves of pitching for her team’s first-ever championship in front 1,000-plus fans were quickly alleviated.
“She works every day in practice and it shows out here,” shortstop Maddison Kettler said. “She comes out and shows that every game for us, so we’ve got to do the best for her.”
It was as if Colorado didn’t get time to settle in before the barrage of West hits began from the get-go.
Pokluda led off the first inning with a bunt, then advanced to second on an bad throw to first. Kettler followed it up with another bunt, giving Pokluda just enough room to score the first run of game.
It snowballed from there. The Lady Trojans connected for four straight hits, including a Pavlas’ RBI double — the only extra-base hit of the game — scoring three more runs for a 4-0 lead with a single out. By the time the onslaught was over, they batted around the order and led 6-0 before Colorado even had a chance to hit.
Pokluda padded West’s lead in the third with a RBI single to score Emeri Eubanks, pushing the Lady Trojans ahead, 7-0.
Just when it appeared that Colorado had gotten comfortable, retiring the side then getting two hits of its own in the fourth, West sent another punishing wave of offense at the Lady Wolves in the fifth inning. The Lady Trojans connected for three singles on one out, then Kettler rocked a hard-rolling ground ball up the middle to score two and give her team a 10-0 lead and activate the run rule. She was sent home by Julia Wernet’s single on the next at-bat.
Nors retired the side in the bottom of the fifth to secure the win, confirming West history in the process.
And relieving her coach from looking at a 25-year empty spot in the team trophy case.
“We’re so honored to be on coach Smith’s team,” Nors said. “She’s such a great coach, and we’re so glad we won it for her.”