BEEVILLE - As an experienced senior surrounded by younger players, Tamara Hajek serves as the unquestioned leader for Shiner's softball team.
Shiner players stand at attention during the pregame National Anthem in Beeville prior to their 14-0 victory over Benavides in Beeville. With the win, the Lady Comanches advanced to the Region IV final.
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With a move to the leadoff spot around the beginning of the playoffs, Hajek gets the chance to lead by example from the top of the batting order now.
And she did just that Friday night.
Hajek went 3 for 3 at the plate and posted three RBIs as her teammates followed suit in the Comanches' 14-0 victory against Benavides in a Class 2A regional semifinal matchup at A.C. Jones.
The win pushes Shiner into the regional finals, where it'll face Weimar, who has defeated the Comanches (25-4) in that round each of the past two seasons.
Shiner led 5-0 against the Eagles through three innings. It was a sizeable lead, but one that could have been erased easily by a team like Benavides, which was ranked second in Class 2A in the state coaches' poll.
In the second at-bat of the fourth, Hajek recorded a single. An avalanche would ensue shortly after.
Shiner, ranked sixth in the coaches' poll, broke out for nine runs to bust the game wide open.
Hannah Nevlud hit a triple and drove in a run, freshman Kailey Williams hit a two-run home run, and Lauren Schuette had a two-run double in the fourth.
Hajek, who batted third most of the season, contributed with the aforementioned single and brought home two other runs with a triple. She recorded a sacrifice fly to bring in a run in the second, too.
"Being moved back to leadoff, (Shiner) coach (Steven) Cerny gives me a chance to set that tone, which is very important to me, and very important for the team," Hajek said.
"She did it (with the bat) last year; she's done it since her freshman year," Cerny said. "They (the other players) listen to her; It's not just her, though, we have great team chemistry."
The chemistry showed when the whole team greeted Williams at the plate in excitement after her fourth- inning home run.
It was also apparent between Hajek, the team's catcher, and starter Cece Darilek.
Darilek puzzled the Benavides batters the entire game. After allowing a single to the second batter of the game, no other Eagles batter had a hit the rest of the way.
Darilek improved her record to 19-2 this season.
"We just wanted to attack them like normal," Darilek said. "Just kind of go in like we always do, get ahead in the count, and if they hit the ball, play it the best we can, and keep errors to a minimum."
Both teams battled against a tight strike zone, but Darilek showed her poise by not issuing a walk to a single batter.
Now it's back to the regional finals for the Comanches, and they're hoping the third time is a charm.
"These girls have just worked," Cerny said. "We're getting that opportunity again, and we're just going to do our best to try to seize it again. Whatever happens, happens, but we're going to be prepared."