ALEDO — Focus is attention to detail, no matter how small.
So when a team is not as focused as it needs to be, it will struggle, which was the story Tuesday night for the Aledo Lady Cats in their game against Crowley.
Fast forward to Friday night at the new Lady Cat Field and Senior Night, a fan would find a team with a laser-precise focus in almost every facet of the game, as the Lady Cats run-ruled the Stephenville Honey Bees 11-1 in five innings to clinch the District 8-4A championship.
“We just were not as sharp as we can play,” said Aledo head softball coach Kevin Cook about his team’s performance earlier in the week. “We needed a couple of good days of practice and we got that Wednesday and Thursday. We spent Wednesday working on our defense, talking through all of our mistakes and refocusing on the fundamentals. Thursday, we came out here and we hit all day long and went through all of our drills, which we have been missing for the last two weeks. These girls play better when they have a chance to practice and think about what they are ready to do and get focused. So I was expecting a big game.”
The Lady Cats came back from Tuesday night where they only had five hits, scored two runs and committed six errors to score 11 runs on 10 hits throughout the lineup while not committing an error. What pleased Cook the most about the outing Friday night was his team’s focus throughout the game, despite the cold air and crisp winds.
“That is our team, focused,” Cook said. “We don’t want to depend on the top of the lineup. We don’t want to depend on our defense. If the top of the lineup doesn’t come through, the bottom of the lineup is expected to and if they don’t do it, someone else is going to get that chance. It was a total team effort to where everyone was paying attention to all of the little things. The infielders were picking up on the pitches and they were expecting the ball to be hit to them. Whitney [Canion] was throwing strikes, expecting the defense to make all of the outs.”
Only the nine hole hitter did not produce a run, but that was only because the game was stopped in the fifth after Aledo’s 11th run scored with senior Alex Tordiglione, the Lady Cats’ ninth batter in the lineup, on base.
Haylee Bell and Easton Cook had the big nights at the plate, both going 2-for-3, each scoring two runs and each driving in another run. Coach Cook and Bell said after the game her double in the bottom of the first was huge because it got things rolling in a big way quickly.
Senior Night was filled with its own special brand of moments for all the players Canion hit her first home run of the year Friday night in the bottom of the second, with the ball bouncing off the top of the wall and falling outside the sheet metal fence to score two runs.
“It did not feel as sweet on the bat as it has before, but I just looked at it,” Canion said. “When it hit the fence, I was just like, ‘It is going to come back in.’ But it went over, and I was really excited.”
Senior Amanda Watlington missed a rare Kodak moment in the same inning when the ball left her bat hard and sailed into left field, only to rip the glove off Stephenville’s left fielder to allow her a double.
“I did not actually see it until it was on the floor and I was rounding first base, but I was thinking, ‘Did I really hit it that hard?’” Watlington said.
Yet the biggest display of Aledo’s sharpened focus came in the bottom of the fifth. Cook said he wanted a big inning before the Lady Cats went to the plate in the fifth and he was asking that to come from the bottom of the lineup and they delivered. Easton Cook led off with a single, followed by Katie Denny getting aboard by way of an error. Hillary Brann hit a single to load the bases for senior Rachel Smith, who has gotten few opportunities to hit this season. After falling behind 1-2, Smith fouled off one pitch before sending the ball through the infield for a base hit, scoring Cook.
“I really just knew that I needed to come through and hit the ball, put the ball in play and make it where we could get out of the game quicker and just expect the unexpected,” Smith said. “I was so excited. I really don’t get to bat much. It felt good to put the ball in play.”
Christina Kelley followed Smith’s hit with one of her own right down the first base line, scoring two runs, moving Smith over to third and bringing the Lady Cats to within one run of ending the game early. Both Smith and Kelley came on to pinch hit for the eighth and ninth batters in the lineup, something that is not easy.
“I think Coach Cook depends a lot on us to sit on the bench the whole game and just come out and do something for the team,” Kelley said. “It is really hard to sit on the bench and be cold out in this weather, then say, ‘Here you go. Here is a bat for you. You have to do something with it.’ When you only get one hit a game, you have a lot resting on your shoulders so it is really nice when you do get that hit and you get to help the team out in your own way without being able to play. It is amazing and the best feeling ever to be able to do something like that.”
The 11th run was scored with runners on second and third base when Lyndi Samuelson put the ball in play with no outs. When the Honey Bees went to throw Samuelson out at first, Smith strolled in to make it 11-1. Samuelson did make it to first base due to a catching error.
The Lady Cats have a three-game road trip scheduled to begin Tuesday to close out their regular season. Tuesday’s game is in Everman, with the first pitch set for 5:30 p.m.
Aledo 11, Stephenville 1 (5 inn.)
SHS 001 00 — 1 1 3
AHS 340 04 — 11 10 0
Canion and Cook; Hood and Brooks. W — Canion. L — Hood. 2b — (AHS) Bell, Watlington. 3b — (SHS) Murphy. HR — (AHS) Canion. SB — (AHS) Bell, Watlington, Tordiglione, Clauser, Samuelson. Records — (AHS) 25-4 (11-0); (SHS) 15-14 (6-5).
ALEDO — Focus is attention to detail, no matter how small.
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