Live Oak baseball

Live Oak freshman Katie Branch has excelled as the Falcons’ two-hole hitter, batting .318 with 10 RBIs.

Live Oak freshman Katie Branch looked at a problem and chose to see an opportunity

Branch, who has been playing select softball since she was 9 years old, felt a void of activity a year ago when her travel teammates from the Georgetown-based Bat Busters were playing high school ball. She realized, because Live Oak does not have a softball program, that scenario would repeat itself this spring.

So Branch started hitting and fielding baseballs.

“I knew, from talking with her parents and from others, that she was a select softball player and I knew that she played softball at a really high level,” Live Oak baseball coach Chris Eickenhorst said. “In TAPPS, if you don’t field a softball team, any female athletes that want to play baseball are allowed to play baseball.”

It didn’t take the Live Oak baseball coach long to figure out that Branch was going to fit in well with his team.

“She came out from Day 1 and earned a starting spot,” Eickenhorst said. “She bats in the two hole in our lineup. She’s a very good baseball player as well.”

Branch starts either at second base or catcher for the Falcons and has accounted well for herself this season. She has a .981 fielding percentage with just one error going into Live Oak’s last couple of regular-season contests.

She’s been just as good at the plate with a .318 batting average and 10 RBIs.

While softball and baseball seem like slightly different versions of the same sport, there are a few key differences that make playing both a challenge. The size of the ball is different, as is the angle of a pitched ball. Also, high school baseball teams play on a regulation field with 90 feet between bases. Softball is played on a smaller field with 60-foot base paths. Baseball players are allowed to take a lead off before the pitcher releases the ball, while softball players must keep a foot on the bag until the ball is hit or crosses the plate.

Branch said she senses the differences when she goes from one sport to the other, but they haven’t caused her problems.

“It hasn’t been too bad” she said. “I go to batting lessons once a week. I kind of alternate between softballs and baseballs. Really the first few pitches, it takes me a while to get back into it.”

Live Oak (5-6, 4-4 in district) defeated Marble Falls Faith Academy, 7-0, on Tuesday night to clinch a playoff berth. That means Branch and her teammates will have a few more games together before heading off to different diamonds this summer.

The Falcons have a young team that includes eight freshmen among a 14-player roster. Branch said that has helped her fit in with the boys.

“Especially having those freshmen that I go to class with every day, it’s made playing with guys a lot easier because they’re my friends,” Branch said. “It’s easier to have that camaraderie on the team. They were kind of surprised at first, but they’ve reacted really well to it.”

Rain limits 6A girls’ golf to 18 holes

The Midway girls golf team watched it rain at Cottonwood Creek Golf Course on Wednesday and waited to see how it would affect their regional golf tournament.

As it turned out, the Class 6A Region II girls’ golf tournament lost 18 holes to the weather. At the end of a rainy day, tourney officials determined to play 18 holes on Thursday to decide the state qualifiers.

Midway’s team of Sarah Chung, Eubin Shim, Jules Arnett, Hannah Densman and Natalie Torres are scheduled tee off from 8:20-10 a.m., Panthers coach Harvie Welch said.

Midway won the District 12-6A title by 44 strokes over second-place Belton, marking the fifth consecutive season the Panthers have claimed the loop championship.

Flocking to state tennis courts

Central Texas will be sending a large contingent of 2A through 4A singles and doubles competitors to the state tennis tournament May 16-17 at Texas A&M

The Robinson girls’ doubles team of Natalie Brown and Neeley Farnum defeated Midlothian Heritage, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, to win the regional title and punch their ticket to state in 4A.

Groesbeck’s Colby McWhorter cruised past Boling’s Preston Miller, 6-0, 6-1, for the regional championship and Goats teammate Hannah DeFriend finished third in the regional tournament to advance to state.

The Crawford tennis team leads a large party of area 2A players headed to College Station. The Pirates girls’ doubles team of Anne Williams and Blair Brunson defeated Centerville’s Ana Lima and Taylor Morgan, 6-4, 6-0. Crawford’s boys doubles team of Dakota Anderson and Hogan Hall edged Moody’s Jacob Armida and Cody Stone, 1-6, 6-4, 6-3; and the Pirates’ mixed doubles pair of Karson Green and Taylor Westerfeld beat Valley Mills’ Albert Franco and Hailey Graves, 7-5, 0-6, 6-2.

Moody’s Armida and Stone advanced to state in boys’ doubles and Liz Perkins made it through in girls’ singles. The Valley Mills team of Franco and Graves mixed doubles team and the Meridian girls’ doubles team of Reese Errington and Riley Dirkse also advanced to the state tournament.

Crawford softball beats the weather

The Crawford Lady Pirates softball team (29-3) entered the playoffs as the top-ranked team in 2A and they’ve already got a victory over the weather.

Crawford was originally scheduled to face San Saba on Wednesday night in Glen Rose. But when the weather forecasts called for heavy rain on Wednesday, the Pirates and Armadillos acted quickly and shifted their bi-district game to the Waco ISD Athletic Complex on Tuesday evening.

Crawford wasn’t fazed by the schedule change as the Lady Pirates claimed a 19-0 run-rule victory. They advanced to play Lindsay in the second round next week.

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