CONVERSE - The Shiner Lady Comanches had to exercise a little patience Thursday night to secure a return trip to the state tournament.
Amber Shimek and Heather Haas hit solo home runs to highlight a three- run fourth inning as the Lady Comanches finally got to D'Hanis pitcher Hannah Braden en route to a 4-0 Class 1A regional final victory over the Cowgirls at the Converse Judson softball complex.
The Lady Comanches (21-6-1) will make their second straight trip to the state tournament and will play Thursday at either 8:30 a.m. or 11 a.m. at McCombs Field on the campus of the University of Texas. Shiner lost 6-2 in the state semifinals last year to Clyde Eula.
"We're happy to get back where we were last year," said Haas, who also struck out eight en route to tossing a two-hit shutout. "This time we're planning on going all the way."
Braden kept the Shiner batters off balance through the first three innings and was backed up by right fielder Vanessa Martinez, who made a pair of superb lunging catches to end the second and third innings.
All the Lady Comanches could manage in the first three innings was a run in the third when Alyssa Strauss singled, stole second, advanced to third on a fielder's choice groundout and scored on a Braden wild pitch.
"We were just lunging and not waiting on the ball," Shiner coach Brandon Siegel said. "It was just a matter of us getting our timing down. Once we did that, we started putting the ball in the play and hitting it hard. It's great to see them do what we tell them."
"We were hitting the ball right at people, but we couldn't get frustrated," Shimek said. "If we would have gotten frustrated, things would have started falling apart. We just had to stay focused the whole time. It took a lot of patience."
The Lady Comanches' patience paid off in the fourth.
Shimek led off the inning by crushing a 3-1 Braden pitch over the left- center field fence to make it 2-0. Morgan Ulman reached on an error and Ieisha Flowers followed with a line drive in the right-center field gap. Ulman easily scored, but Flowers was thrown out at third trying to stretch the hit into the triple.
But Shiner wasn't finished. One batter later, Haas deposited a 2-0 Braden almost exactly where Shimek had hit her home run to widen the Lady Comanches' lead to 4-0.
Haas knew the ball was gone the instant she made contact.
"I could just feel it," Haas said. "I knew it was going over."
Haas struggled a bit in the sixth and seventh. She went to 3-2 counts on five straight batters, but managed to retire the last six she faced to improve her record to 20-6.
"I just tried to keep calm, because I know when I get frustrated I'll start throwing balls," Haas said. "I just had let things take care of themselves."
D'Hanis, which finished with a 16-9 record, had almost 17 runs per game in the playoffs before Thursday night.
"Heather is just such a fierce competitor and when that competitive nature takes over, it's hard to sort of calm it down a little bit," Siegel said. "When we get her to stay back within herself, she regains her composure."
Despite early season struggles, the Lady Comanches find themselves headed back to Austin with hopes of winning two more games.
"Getting back to state was our ultimate goal and dream from the get-go," Siegel said. "These girls made it all come true."
Game summary Score F D'Hanis 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 -- 0 Shiner 0 0 1 3 0 0 0 -- 4 Highlights WP: Heather Haas (19-6). LP: Hannah Braden. Highlights: (S) Haas pitched two-hit shutout, struck out 8, 1-for-4, HR, RBI; Ieisha Flowers 2-for-3, 2B, RBI; Amber Shimek 1-for-3, HR, RBI; Alyssa Strauss 1-for-3, run. Records: D'Hanis 16-9, Shiner 20-6-1. Note: Shiner advances to the state tournament and will play at 8 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. Thursday. 2007 UIL State Softball Tournament Info