High School Softball

Falcons find rhythm late in clutch win over Mustangs

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 4/1/21

The situation was intense, and Tompkins senior outfielder Taylor Gage understood that. It was a pressure moment, but she welcomed it.

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High School Softball

Falcons find rhythm late in clutch win over Mustangs

Posted

The situation was intense, and Tompkins senior outfielder Taylor Gage understood that. It was a pressure moment, but she welcomed it.

With Tompkins and Taylor tied in the sixth inning of their District 19-6A softball game on Thursday, Gage delivered a looping hit misplayed by the left fielder and scored junior Ashley Martinec for the go-ahead run. Meagan Brown’s RBI single moments later scored Gage, who had advanced to third off the error, and the Falcons ultimately survived the Mustangs, 5-3.

Tompkins improved to 6-3 in 19-6A, 8-3 overall, to steady its hold on second place. Taylor, which entered the game tied with Cinco Ranch at 4-3 in 19-6A and a half-game behind Tompkins, dropped to 4-4.

“My other two at-bats, I wasn’t producing the way I wanted to,” Gage said. “I popped out and struck out. She (Taylor senior pitcher Mallory Reynolds) was giving me all outside (pitches), and usually I struggle with outsides. So, my approach was expecting that outside pitch and stay through it and get a low line drive. It was a tight game and I knew I had to produce for my team.”

With the game knotted 3-3, Tompkins’ Blakely Haynie popped out to third to start the bottom of the sixth. Martinec followed with a walk.

“It would’ve been amazing to hit a home run there, but I didn’t go up there with that mentality,” said a laughing Martinec, whose first hit of the game was a booming double that barely missed crossing the left side of the outfield fence. “You just can’t. I just had to find a way on, and that’s what I did. I would’ve loved a hit, but it’s doing whatever it takes to get on. I adjusted to her speed. I was hovering the plate, because she was going outside and then coming inside.”

Kaylee McGary’s sacrifice bunt advanced Martinec, and Gage brought her home.

“She’s been clutch lately and has had some really great hits in the right spots,” coach Katy Agiannidis said. “When I saw her coming up, I was confident we were about to get what we needed done.”

As the final hitter before the top of the lineup emerges, Gage understands her job is to put the ball in play. She has earned the trust of coaches and teammates because of that mentality, and Agiannidis said it’s like having another leadoff hitter in the No. 9 spot.

“It’s an important game,” Gage said. “Not having the chance to go to playoffs last year and coming off all of this COVID stuff, we really want to bring it this year and go deep in the playoffs. Getting second place is huge. I think it’s a matter of who wants it more at this point.”

The game did not come without troubles for the Falcons, however. After falling to the Falcons, 12-0, in their first meeting, the Mustangs looked like an entirely different team.

A big reason was Reynolds, who threw a solid game by pitching outside and keeping Falcons hitters off balance. Reynolds had five strikeouts to one walk and four earned runs on nine hits. Four of those hits came in the second inning when Tompkins plated three runs for a 3-1 lead.

But Reynolds held the Falcons scoreless over the next three innings, allowing one hit.

“We’ve always had trouble adjusting to slower pitchers, especially when they’re throwing outside,” Gage said. “A lot of us were popping out because we were way, way ahead of the ball. It was a matter of us adjusting.”

The Falcons scored early and often against the Mustangs in their first meeting. When the runs weren’t coming as easily this time around, Tompkins lost its way a bit at the plate.

“I have really high expectations for them, and I think they’re really good hitters,” Agiannidis said of her girls. “They should be able to make adjustments earlier in the game, and when they don’t make the adjustments they’re capable of, it’s pretty frustrating. I was frustrated with how long it took them, but Taylor did a great job of keeping us off-balance. The pitcher did a fantastic job.”

As the Tompkins bats struggled early, so did Martinec, allowing Taylor to rally from that two-run deficit and tie it 3-3 in the third inning behind back-to-back RBI doubles from Reynolds and Emily Kristynik. Martinec, though, adjusted, and once she did, she was practically unhittable.

“My pitches weren’t really working at the beginning, and I had to find a way to make them work,” Martinec said. “Towards the fifth inning, I started to find it. People have seen me and know my patterns and I had to work off that. I moved pitches more outside, especially on the curveball and especially with everyone hovering over the plate.”

Tompkins’ ace retired 12 of the final 13 batters she faced and finished with six strikeouts to one walk and three runs on five hits. Her dominance after the third inning awarded Falcons hitters ample time to find their rhythm.

“We have our rough patches and rough games, but we always seem to pull through,” Martinec said. “It may take us a while to adjust to pitching sometimes, but once we do, we rally the hits and we do it when it counts.”

Tompkins is a young, inexperienced team. The Falcons only start two seniors in Gage and infielder Brooke Lozano. Agiannidis has players competing at new positions and still trying to find their way, having only played 15 games last year before the pandemic canceled the season and 11 games so far during this abrupt campaign.

“Some of that (adjustment) stuff comes out in games like this where we’ve got to get reps in, more cuts in,” Agiannidis said. “Our last two outings (losses to Katy and Cinco Ranch), we haven’t had good results. Tonight was really important to come out and get back in the swing of things. We’ve got to win out and the kids knew that, so tonight was big.”

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