“We just have had this collective goal to win as much as we can so we can stay together,” said catcher Shelby Hodge. “We all love being on this team and playing together."
Cinco Ranch is hot.
After winning two in a row to close out district and clinch the final playoff berth out of the district, Cinco headed into the playoffs with confidence.
They didn’t care about being the underdogs in a series, that they were facing a one seed or anything else against them.
All the Cougars knew was they wanted to keep their season going and keep playing together for longer.
Cinco brought that confidence into their Class 6A bi-district series against Fort Bend Travis, and it never faltered, as the Cougars followed up a game one 3-1 victory with an 11-4 win in game two, sweeping the Tigers to advance to the area round.
“We just have had this collective goal to win as much as we can so we can stay together,” said catcher Shelby Hodge. “We all love being on this team and playing together and it just clicked for us that if we didn’t make playoffs we weren’t going to be able to play together anymore and I think that motivated everyone to go out and keep this going.”
The Cougars bats were on fire in the game, as they collected 11 hits and scored in each of the final four innings to close things out.
The most important adjustment for Cinco came in the form of their aggressiveness, as they started going after pitches early in counts to get their offense going.
“It was really important for us to go after the first good pitch we saw,” said Cinco Ranch head coach Suzanne Reeve. “Their pitcher is really good and did a great job this series. If you let those good ones go, she’s going to start working that changeup and making it hard on you. She did great with that changeup, but towards the end we realized that we had to attack those good ones because there weren’t going to be many good ones after that.
Cinco took the lead in the top of the first as Faith Piper led off the game with a single and Shelby Hodge drove her in with a single to right field. Tavis though, came out fired up and their offense put up four runs in the bottom of the inning to take a commanding lead early in the game.
Cinco Ranch though, made the decision to go to the bullpen and Chela Kovar was excellent once she came on, going six innings and allowing one run the rest of the way while striking out seven.
“I wasn’t sure who I wanted to pitch at first and that’s a really good problem to have as a coach,” Reeve said. “It’s great that if one isn’t hitting their spots the other one can come in and do such a good job. And that can work with whichever starts on the mound.”
Neither team scored in the second or third innings, but Cinco broke things open in the fourth.
The Cougars got three runners on base before Piper came to the plate and tied the game at three with a two-run double, an error then gave Cinco a two run lead before Hodge hit a single, driving in two more to make it 7-3 Cinco.
Hodge had a big day, going 3-5 at the plate while driving in four runs.
“Honestly I was just looking to go after anything I could get,” Hodges said. “I didn’t want to get behind and have to face her off-speed stuff so I attacked and it worked out today.”
Cinco got another run in the fifth on an error, and Travis answered with a run of its own to trim the lead back to four, but the Cougars were not going to be denied. Kovar drove in a run in the sixth and Piper and Hodges both drove in runs in the seventh to seal things for the Cougars as they advanced to the area round.
“We really have just been together all year and this game wasn’t any different,” Kovar said. “We’ve bonded and it’s been a really fun team to be a part of.”
Cinco Ranch will play Houston Heights next Friday and Saturday in a three game series, game times to be determined.
“The most important thing for them will be to continue to trust each other and keep having good practices with the long layoff,” Reeve said. “We have to have those good practices and take everything we do thee and carry it over to the game. If you work hard and know that you are putting everything into practice then you feel more confident when you get into the game.”
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