AUSTIN – When Petrolia tied the Class 1A state semifinal in the top of the third inning, Sam Rayburn didn’t panic.
Instead, the Lady Rebels reclaimed the lead on Alaina Kissinger’s three-run homer in the bottom half of the inning.
That blow proved to be the difference as Sam Rayburn (28-4) advanced to today’s championship game with a 5-3 victory over the Lady Pirates on Thursday morning at McCombs Field.
The Lady Rebels will face Flatonia – a 4-1 winner over Garrison – at 3 p.m. in a bid to win their first state championship.
After Petrolia scored more runs off Sam Rayburn than any team had in the playoffs on Alaina Anderson’s two-run double, the Lady Rebels responded.
“After they tied it up, I saw the team and it didn’t look like we were in panic mode,” Sam Rayburn head coach Bret Cranford said. “I told them out there there’s no reason to panic. We didn’t expect to run-rule them. That kind of settled them back down a little bit.”
Kissinger’s homer off Katie Cummings sailed over the fence in left field with two outs but the Lady Rebels were fortunate to still be batting.
The Lady Pirates (18-13) had turned a 1-3-2 double play to nail Ali Wiechman at the plate but that defensive gem was offset when they committed two errors to extend the third.
Center fielder Abby Anderson dropped Maddie Dow’s fly ball, then Avery Cranford reached on a booted grounder at second base.
After her homer, Kissinger was dialed in on the mound, retiring the next 11 batters she faced. But the Lady Pirates were able to make the game’s final inning interesting.
The Lady Rebels almost turned a 6-4-3 double play that would have sealed the win but Petrolia’s Allie Ablia beat out Torri Pannell’s throw.
Petrolia’s No. 8 and 9 hitters – Sidney Mobley and Mallory Ridinger – reached on a single and hit by pitch to load the bases.
Jamie Kowalick then delivered an RBI single to right field, but the game ended when Ridinger had rounded second base too far, expecting Mobley to be sent home.
Pannell received Brittnie Whirley’s quick cut-off throw and tagged Ridinger out as she slid back into second base.
“We had those mistakes and that happens. It’s part of the game,” Petrolia head coach DeDe Gray said. “We had too many and they didn’t have as many.”
Sam Rayburn got off to a good start in the first inning, scoring twice off Cummings.
Wiechman reached with a leadoff walk, which was followed by Cassidy Hall’s single up the middle.
Avery Cranford then delivered a two-run double to left field, giving the Lady Rebels a 2-0 lead that didn’t hold up as long as Rayburn had hoped as Anderson tied the game on a two-run double that glanced off Pannell’s glove.
“They didn’t make it easy. Petrolia battled back, and I knew they would,” Cranford said. “I knew two runs wasn’t enough. We had some breaks, they helped us out a little bit and we took advantage of it and put some more runs on the board.”
Kissinger allowed three earned runs on five hits. She struck out three and walked only one.
“She got in a roll and she’s capable of doing that,” Cranford said. “Both my pitchers are. They’ve been doing it all year long, and that’s why we’re here.”