HERMLEIGH — The Ralls Lady Rabbits saw their playoff run come to an end Saturday with a 10-2 loss to Archer City as the Lady Cats completed a sweep of their Region I-2A semifinal series at Lady Cardinal Field.
After Archer City took a 19-0 victory in Game 1, sending 20 batters to the plate in a 16-run fourth inning, Ralls coach Bobby Feaster credited the Lady Rabbits for coming back with a competitive performance in Game 2. Ralls stayed close through the middle innings before Archer City put the game away with five runs in the sixth.
“It was a moral victory in itself,” Feaster said. “(Friday) night was the worst game we’ve played all year, probably several years.
“To come back and go seven with them after such a resounding defeat, these kids could have dropped their head and called it good and we’d have been done in five and already at the house. But they battled all the way. They gave me everything they had and that’s all I can ask.”
Archer City (26-6-2) advances to the Region I-2A final against District 8-2A rival Petrolia, which defeated Forsan 4-1 on Saturday. Lady Cats coach Mallory Mooney said maintaining the offensive production was a key factor. Archer City had 15 hits Saturday after getting 18 in Game 1.
“I told them they did a good job (Friday), but it’s over,” Mooney said. “We’ve got to come out the next day. The best teams repeat success. I told them to stay hot, stay patient.
“It was a little bit slower today, it seemed, but they got some key hits at key times to score 10 runs. They did a good job.”
For the Lady Rabbits (24-6), it was the end of a run that included the District 2-2A championship and wins in three rounds of the playoffs.
“I think one of our greatest accomplishments this year was going undefeated in district,” said Ralls first baseman Jadeyn Arthur, who went 2 for 3 in Saturday’s game. “There’s not a lot in Ralls, but when you go you think of softball. Whenever we’re done with practice, there’s little kids in elementary and middle school going out there to practice softball, and they’re following us.
“I think we have a big future because that’s what we’re known for and that’s what people want to be good at. They want to be like us. We have a lot of good kids coming up.”
Feaster said the Lady Rabbits proved to be more than the sum of their parts with several players taking on new roles this season.
“That center fielder (Frankie Torres), that’s her first year in center field,” he said. “The pitcher (Grace Cavazos) pitched part of three games last year and came out and won 24 for us.
“As far as these girls collectively, they’re not the best-looking athletes, but they play very well together and they’ve always got each others’ back. I think a lot of times that’s what’s made us successful.”
Cavazos, one of four seniors on the Ralls roster, said the senior class is leaving behind a tradition of excellence.
“We’ve been playing with these girls for, it feels like, forever,” Cavazos said. “I think they’ve learned a lot from us and we’ve learned a lot from them. They’re going to be able to carry that on into next year.
“Everything Coach Feaster has taught them and taught us, it’s going to carry on into their lives. For them it’s going to be a little challenging because losing four seniors is always challenging, but the they’re also going to be losing a really great coach and that’s going to be extra challenging. But they’re going to manage to get over it and jump that hurdle.”
Feaster is retiring at the end of the school year after a 32-year career in education, the last 19 at Ralls, where he started the softball program.
“I hope that they’ll remember the lessons we learned out here,” he said. “I want them to get an education. I want them to graduate. I want to to do really good things with their lives, be contributing members of society. If they do that, then I’ve done my job.”
Audry Lopez went 4 for 4 with four RBIs to lead Archer City, hitting a three-run homer in the fourth to put the Lady Cats up 5-0. Vanessa Rater went 3 for 4 with a two-run double in the sixth to help put the game away.
Nine of Archer City’s runs were scored with two outs. Lopez singled in a run in the first and Maeley Herring added an RBI single in the second before Lopez homered with two outs in the fourth. In the sixth, Victoria Rater tripled with one out and scored on Hope Browning’s single before Lindy Reid added a sacrifice fly ahead of Vanessa Rater’s double.
“You rally with two outs,” Mooney said. “That’s what I tell them. The inning’s not over until they get three outs. With runners on base and two outs, keep the inning going.”
Payton Calderon scored both Ralls runs after leading off the fourth with a single and working a walk in the sixth. In the fourth, Arthur followed with a single and Lexi Palmer bunted the runners over before Isabel Lara lifted a sacrifice fly to right. In the sixth, Calderson moved up on another Arthur single and Lara’s fly out before scoring on a wild pitch.
Archer City pitcher Eliot Hilbers held Ralls to five hits while striking out two and walking one. Hilbers set the tone in the bottom of the first to protect a 1-0 lead. After giving up a leadoff triple to Brisa Moreno, Hilbers retired the next nine batters to keep the lead intact.
Cavazos was charged with nine earned runs on 15 hits. She struck out one and walked four.
REGION I-2A SEMIFINAL SERIES
ARCHER CITY 10, RALLS 2
Archer City 110 304 0—10 15 0
Ralls 001 001 0—2 5 3
Eliot Hilbers and Lindy Reid. Grace Cavazos and Katherine Sanchez. W — Hilbers. L — Cavazos. 2B — Archer City: Vanessa Rater. 3B — Archer City: Victoria Rater; Ralls: Brisa Moreno. HR — Archer City: Audry Lopez. RECORDS — Archer City 26-6-2, Ralls 24-6.