AUSTIN - The Shiner Lady Comanches would have rather taken home a gold medal, but they did leave McCombs Field on Thursday with a valuable lesson learned.
Shiner's Maci Schaefer (9) and Alyssa Strauss console each other Thursday surrounded by disappointed teammates after a 6-2 loss to Clyde Eula in the Class 1A state semifinal. Jodi Miller, Victoria Advocate
Shiner, which didn't have a senior on its roster and started seven freshmen, committed six errors, including three in the first two innings that allowed the Clyde Eula Lady Pirates to jump out to a quick 4-0 lead en route to a 6-2 victory over the Lady Comanches in the Class 1A semifinals of the UIL state softball tournament.
"We're young," Shiner freshman pitcher Heather Haas said. "We came out too nervous. We needed to relax and make the plays and we didn't do it."
"When you commit six errors in a big game like this, good things don't happen," Lady Comanches coach Brandon Siegel said. "We spotted them four runs and we couldn't bounce back."
Clyde Eula (26-5) advanced to the state title game at 8 a.m. on Saturday against Collinsville (27-1), which beat Big Sandy 9-2 in Thursday's other semifinal.
Despite their youth, the Lady Comanches had exhibited the poise of a veteran team throughout the playoffs. But four errors, three passed balls and other miscues in the first two innings put Shiner in a position it couldn't overcome.
Courtney Clark, who was 2-for-2 with three runs scored, set the tone on Haas' first pitch when she lined a single to right-center field. She advanced to second on a passed ball and Ashley Hillin, who was 3-for-4 with one run scored, laid a bunt down the third-base line that appeared to be rolling foul. But third baseman Courtney Frank picked it up as it was still on the line and her throw to get Hillin at first was late.
Clark advanced to third on the play and scored moments later on another passed ball. Moments later, Haas fielded a Whitney Faircloth bunt, but first baseman Taylor Hajek couldn't handle her throw and Hillin scored from third to make it 2-0.
Haas retired the next two batters on groundouts before Hajek misplayed a grounder by Bailey Reynolds to allow Faircloth to score and build Clyde Eula's lead to 3-0.
"We just let nerves get to us," Shiner junior catcher Maci Schaefer said. "We were all way too jittery."
The Lady Comanches' jitters continued into the second inning. Clark hit a two-out double then stole third and scored when Frank couldn't come down with Schaefer's throw on the play.
"We are better than how we played today," Siegel said. "Overall, I thought the girls were well-prepared. They were loose in the dugout. They looked real good during warm-ups."
Hillin (23-4) scattered seven Shiner hits and struck out only two. She was able to strand eight Lady Comanches runners and forced Shiner to hit numerous soft pop flies. For the game, Lady Comanches batters flied out 11 times.
"She threw a rise ball, but we were being too anxious at the plate instead of waiting for the ball," Siegel said. "That's a sign of a young team."
Shiner finally got to Hillin in the fifth. Ieisha Flowers led off with a triple and scored when center fielder Bailey Reynolds' throw to third went into the Clyde Eula dugout.
Hajek and Amber Shimek followed with consecutive singles, but Hillin retired Paige Michalec on a soft pop-up to Clark at shortstop, Alyssa Strauss on a fielder's choice groundout and Schaefer on a flyout to second baseman Faircloth.
The Lady Pirates cancelled Shiner's run in the fifth with one of their own in the bottom of the inning by taking advantage of another Lady Comanches error. Faircloth singled and later scored on shortstop Strauss' overthrow to first base on Loralee Reynolds' grounder to make it 5-1.
The teams traded runs in the sixth before a 45-minute rain delay halted play just before Shiner came to bat in the bottom of the seventh. The Lady Comanches used the delay as an opportunity to motivate themselves for a comeback.
"We talked about just hitting the ball and making a rally," Haas said. "We had done it before in Little League. We told each other that anything could happen."
It appeared Shiner was putting something together as Michalec led off with a single off third baseman Randa Moore's glove and Schaefer added a one-out single to left field. But the Lady Comanches' hopes of rallying were dashed in fitting fashion as Clark made an over-the-shoulder catch of Haas' pop-up in short left field and threw out Michalec, who tried to advance to third, for a game-ending double play.
"You have to give them credit. They got the key hits and we didn't," Siegel said. "They played a better game all the way around. But our girls battled to the end. You have to give them credit for that."
Shiner was making its sixth state tournament appearance and had won titles in 2001 and '02. The Lady Comanches went home knowing they'll be favored to return to Austin next year, but it was a small consolation after their disappointing loss.
"There will be a lot of 'what ifs' - what if we had made this play or made that one," Schaefer said. "We know we could have played better."
STATE SEMIFINAL - JUNE 1, 2006 SCORE: F Shiner 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 -- 2 Clyde Eula 3 1 0 0 1 1 0 -- 6 HIGHLIGHTS: UIL state tournament Class 1A semifinals, Austin WP: Ashley Hillin (23-4). LP: Heather Haas (17-4). Highlights: (S) Ieisha Flowers 1-for-3, triple, run; Haas 6 IP, 3 strikeouts, eight hits; (CE) Hillin 3-for-4, run; Courtney Clark 2-for-2, 3 runs; Whitney Faircloth 2-for-3, 2 runs, 2 RBIs. Records: Shiner 20-5-1, Clyde Eula 26-5. Note: Clyde Eula advances to Saturday's 8 a.m. Class 1A state championship game against Collinsville at McCombs Field, Austin.