West’s quest to win a second-straight state championship appeared to be alive and well when the Lady Trojans won their series opener against Little River Academy on Thursday night.
But the Lady Bees stung West twice and brought an abrupt end to the Lady Trojans’ campaign.
Academy built a six-run lead and held on in the bottom of the seventh to claim a 7-5 regional-quarterfinal-series victory over West on Saturday at the Waco ISD Softball Complex.
West (29-5) swept the Lady Bees in the same round in 2016 on the Lady Trojans’ way to the Class 3A state championship.
But Academy wasn’t intimidated by playing the defending state champs and current No. 1-ranked outfit in 3A. This time, Academy advances to play Pollok Central in the 3A Region III semifinals this week at a time and place to be determined.
The Lady Bees (31-8) battled back after dropping the opener of their best-of-three series versus West on Thursday.
The Lady Trojans scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh inning in Game 1 to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
However, after Academy defeated West, 4-0, on Friday, the Lady Bees took control in the series finale.
Academy’s winning surge on Saturday began with a rare three-run grand slam.
Lady Bees catcher Destini Hulsey came to bat in the top of the third with the bases loaded. She turned on an inside pitch and hit a rocket that curled just inside the left-field foul pole.
But Academy’s celebration of the grand slam was slightly dampened when the West dugout protested that one of the runners didn’t touch home plate.
Lady Bees Hay, Kennedy Jimenez and Hulsey scored on the home run, but the umpires ruled that Avery McDaniel turned around to congratulate a teammate and missed the plate.
Even so, Academy walked away with a 3-1 lead and momentum.
“We still got the other three scores and that was crucial for us,” Hulsey said. “We didn’t let that little mistake or mishap keep us down. We just kept going.”
Hay responded to the go-ahead home run by shutting down West in the bottom of the third. She induced a pair of ground outs and a line out to shortstop Jimenez to keep the Lady Trojans from answering with a rally.
Academy tacked on a run in the top of the sixth as Hulsey singled up the middle and scored on pinch hitter Savannah Vansa’s single to center.
In the seventh, Lady Bees right fielder Kylah Hulsey singled to lead off the frame, Kenidi White reached base on a bunt single and Hay drove a single through the middle to score Hulsey.
Hay and White later scored on a costly West error, boosting the Lady Bees’ lead to 7-1.
And they needed almost all of it.
West shortstop Emeri Eubanks hit a fly ball to left field that cleared the fence and scored pitcher Danielle Nors, slicing Academy’s led to 7-3.
The Lady Trojans kept fighting. Julia Wernet followed Eubanks’ homer with a single to right and Kristynn Schiller walked to give West two on with no outs.
Academy right fielder Kylah Hulsey rushed in to catch a foul fly ball for the first out of the inning.
But West pinch hitter Jordan Dudik walked to load the bases and Mia Pokluda beat out an infield single to add a run, making it 7-4.
Lady Trojan pinch hitter Jill Davis grounded out to first, but Schiller scored on the play and suddenly West had the tying run in scoring position with Pokluda standing on second.
That’s when Hay induced the most celebrated foul fly out of the Lady Bees’ season so far. West’s Cassie Pavlas hit a pop up between home plate and the Academy dugout and Lady Bees first baseman Kasey Woolard wandered into foul territory to make the catch and end the game.
While Academy coach Gus Beuershausen said he was starting to worry in the bottom of the seventh, the Lady Bees players said they never flinched.
“We didn’t start freaking out or anything,” Destini Hulsey said. “We had that extra cushion. So we knew that we had to just get outs and make our routine plays.”