“I think we just needed to be patient at the plate and when we did that we had success,” said Cinco Ranch head coach Suzanne Reeve. “And Shelby did a great job of coming in and getting those clutch hits when we needed them."
Cinco Ranch is peaking at the right time.
The Cougars had struggles early in the season and had to battle all the way until the end of the district schedule to make playoffs, but in the last few weeks, the Cougars have hit a new gear, winning five straight games and culminating in a 2-1 win over Houston Heights in a one-game area round series to advance to the regional quarterfinals of the playoffs.
“This journey, sometimes it has been a bit of a struggle,” said senior catcher Shelby Hodge. “We always knew we had the ability to do big things together, but we just didn’t early in the season. But as we started to keep getting further into the year and trust one another, we started to produce. The journey from then on has been amazing and it makes me so happy we had that struggle. We know what that feels like now and we never want to feel that again.”
The win gave Cinco Ranch its first trip to the regional quarterfinals since the 2014 season, and it has come from a team that finished fourth in district play but has shown the ability to beat any team with strong pitching and timely hitting.
That strong pitching was on full display Friday, as Chela Kovar went seven innings and allowed just two hits and one run while striking out ten.
“Chela had such a huge impact for us tonight,” said center fielder Krista Burg. “We needed her to be that good in order to win and I’m just really proud of everything she’s done for us and so thankful that we have her on this team.”
Heights took the lead in the second inning, as Kennedy Hill hit a solo homerun to get the team on the board. But that would be the only run that came for Heights, as Cinco’s pitching and defense did not allow another run the rest of the way.
The Cougars bats were cold early, as they did not get a hit in the first three innings, but the fourth inning was the turning point for Cinco Ranch.
Hodge got things started with a double to lead off the inning and then took an extra base on the throw to get to third. That ignited the team, and Mariah Hinojosa followed that up with a single to tie the game.
“I think we just needed to be patient at the plate and when we did that we had success,” said Cinco Ranch head coach Suzanne Reeve. “And Shelby did a great job of coming in and getting those clutch hits when we needed them. She was huge for us today.”
Cinco came back again in the fifth inning, as they weren’t done. Madison Rosario started the inning with a single, before Burg walked to put two runners on base. Heights got Cinco to two outs in the inning, but Hodge came to the plate and was clutch once again, hitting a single to right field to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
“She was a really good pitcher but once we slowed it down we were able to find the answer,” Hodge said. We like to press at times but once we started to slow things down and wait for our pitches instead of going after her good pitches. That helped us to be more successful. We just had to slow everything down and keep it simple.”
Kovar then pitched a three up, three down inning to close things out, as she ended the game by retiring the final 13 batters she faced.
The Cougars advance to play either Katy or Cy-Fair in the regional quarterfinal round, as Cinco attempts to keep this strong run going.
“We’re just excited to be moving on and we’re excited to play whichever team we face,” Reeve said. “The biggest thing for the girls is they need to believe that they can do it. That’s 90% of it is the mental aspect. And it’s like I told them the other day. We are prepared for these games, we have a saying, ‘the hay is in the barn.’ We’ve done everything to bring that hay in the barn, now it’s just time to go.”
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