BURLESON, Texas — Nineteen runs in two days was all Midlothian needed to surge past Burleson High School and into the area round of the UIL 5A playoffs.
Six of those runs, courtesy of a mid-game surge sparked by back-to-back fifth-inning singles, came during the game two Friday win against the Lady Elks 6-3 at BHS Lady Elk Field.
"We're a lot like Midlothian in the way we play and our abilities, but we don't have a No. 17," said Lady Elk Coach Summer Owen. "[Georgia Capell] is a stud and definitely someone we didn't want to throw to with runners on [base] — especially after back-to-back home runs last night. With no runners on, we'll take a solo home run, but our fields are only 200 feet and she put it 250 easily. Our field looks like a T-Ball field to her, I'm sure."
Before the series ended, Burleson would see one more long ball leave its field's confines.
Two of the game's six runs came from a reach on an error by Kaylee Hlavaty and the home run bomb-producing bat of Noah after she sent Kyleigh Rich's ninth pitch of the first inning — and first allowed hit — over the left field wall.
The Lady Elks momentarily found the cure to Noah's dominating pitching, though. They also found life, a rally and a one-run lead two outs and half an inning later with the help of back-to-back-to-back hits by Natali Wheeler, Saeya Esparza and Rich.
"We should have scored more than three at the beginning," Owen said. "I think we were at our best when we held them to scoreless innings but we started to coast a little bit. I told them one run wasn't an insurance on a team like that because they can hit the ball and are going to score. When you pair that with Shelby Noah, one of the best pitcher's we've seen, fending [our batters] off at the plate, you've got to hit the ball, score runs and keep pace."
Burleson, which handed 9-5A champion and No. 1 seed Burleson Centennial High School its only district loss of the season and beat the Lady Spartans for the first time in four years on March 13, found only four more hits via a double by Rich, a single by Maddie McGovern and a single by Taylor Sutton.
Alejandro Lozoya, the head softball coach at Midlothian High School, said the solution to turning the corner came after Burleson rallied with three runs in the bottom of the first inning.
"I think it took an inning or so for them to realize it was an elimination game, but once they woke up they played better," Lozoya said. "I think they realized you can't teams lightly, especially a team as good as Burleson."
Although Noah surrendered three runs on a wild pitch, a pair of singles and Rich's RBI triple, she and the Lady Panther defense calmed, settled and allowed only four more hits through the next six innings.
Noah pitched a complete game, striking out five batters, walking four, committing two errors and allowing seven hits in 122 pitches. She said despite the furious Lady Elk rush, panic didn't run rampant through the dugout.
Instead, it got louder and helped spark the rally.
"We weren't afraid at all. We know we can get hits and get around [the bases] and as long as we get our three outs on defense we can get the runs we need," Noah said. "We've relied on not only our hitting but our dugout, too. We know the rally is there and know that it's in us. We just keep chipping away and use our rallies. They're what get us going. We have kids in our dugout and that's who they are and what they do. They're what gets us going."
While one pitcher used raucous cheers from the dugout to find her stride, another wavered enough for Midlothian to take and hold a slim lead in the top of the fifth inning. The initial jab before a knockout-punch single and sacrifice fly by Annabel Anderson and Noah didn't come from the bat of Lady Panther hits and home runs leader Georgia Capell, though.
It was dealt by the unpredictable bat of Tatum Sorrels.
Sorrels dropped Rich's 1-0 fastball into centerfield and over the head of Esparza. Instead of trotting into first base, she turned the corner, donned a blue-and-white cape and created a spark.
"It was an unorthodox triple, but that's what Tatum is to us. She's our catalyst," Lozoya said while chuckling at the thought of her hit. "That's something we do when we goof around in practice — keep going until they get you out. She saw second open and took that one. She's been playing this game since she was little and decided she wanted third. Home plate was open until the catcher moonwalked her way back to home plate. She could have had an inside-the-park homer on just a little flare. That's what she brings to the table for our team. She does it for Coach (Amy) Tennison on the basketball court and us on the softball field.
"How she goes is how we go because what she and Megan (Martens) do at the bottom of the lineup and allows the lineup to turn over. Next thing you know, we've got rabbits on base in scoring position and Georgia up to bat."
Sorrels was one of six different Lady Panthers to earn at least one hit. Lexi Perez, who finished as the team's hits leader, had two in three at-bats.
Sorrels spark helped propel Midlothian into the area round of the UIL softball playoffs for the second time in the 5A classification and the third time in three years. It also knocked Burleson out in the bi-district round for the first time in more than three years and put Midlothian on a head-to-head collision course with Dallas Hillcrest High School at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Lady Panther Field at the Midlothian Sports Complex.
Before moving up to 6A in 2015, the Lady Panthers spent three years in Districts 5-5A and 7-5A, reaching the postseason each year.
Former Head Coach Jennifer McFalls led the Lady Panthers to the area round and a loss to Keller High School in 2011 and the bi-district round and a loss to Richland High School in 2012. Then-first year Head Coach Lozoya and Midlothian fell to Midway High School in the bi-district round in 2013.
The Hillcrest Lady Panthers enter the one-game playoff as the District 11-5A No. 1 seed after notching blowout wins against Dallas Molina, Samuell and Spruce High Schools.
"Coach Owen does a great job with her team and they weren't pushovers by any stretch of the imagination," Lozoya said. "They beat quality teams during non-district and district play — including taking out undefeated Burleson Centennial a couple of weeks ago. When we came into this game, I told the kids to not look at them as a No. 3 because we were looking at ourselves in the mirror. It was good to get momentum against a good team and see what we can do when we're pushed to the brink. Playing against ourselves showed us what our weaknesses are and that we have to be better. We're doing that and every day we're a little better than we were before the last pitch."
Marcus S. Marion can be reached for story idea submissions or concerns at (469) 517-1456. Follow him on Twitter at @MarcusMarionWNI.