By Pat Turner
KINGSVILLE – Dynasty Harpel couldn’t have picked a better time to break out of a hitting slump than Saturday afternoon
Locked in a tie with Edinburg Vela in game two of the best-of-three Region IV quarterfinals series, the Warren freshman ended her struggles and provided a major spark in the process by helping the Warriors complete the sweep by lofting a run-scoring double in the seventh inning for a 4-3 victory at A&M-Kingsville.
Because of Harpel’s clutch work, coupled with more crafty pitching from Annika Litterio, who struck out 12 while scattering six hits, the Warriors magical playoff ride continues with a meeting against New Braunfels Canyon for the Region IV championship and a trip to the State Softball Tournament.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Harpel said. “This is special to play with these girls. We have bonded so close. We’re getting more confident.”
The Warriors received a warning about how stressful game two might become from coach Melanie Morales. After all, they went through a similar experience during best-of-three meetings with Austin Lake Travis and O’Connor the previous week and came out ahead.
Now, they were being called on to do the same.
“I told them we had the momentum from winning game one,” Morales said. “The pressure was on (Vela). They (Vela) were going to be loud with their fans and everything. But I told them to keep their composure. I told them to focus on the game and play Warren softball. They did. I was nervous the whole game, but these girls are fighters. They keep pushing through.”
The Warriors needed a huge push Saturday, especially when it appeared the series might go to three games as Warren faced its first deficit in the playoffs.
In the long run, everything worked in Warren’s favor.
Litterio fanned five batters through the first two innings while battling out of trouble after Vela left two runners stranded in both frames.
Cassie Davis provided a quick spark by roping a triple down the right-field line. Lauren Garcia then drilled a two-run homer over the left-field fence for a 2-0 lead.
Vela continued to create pressure, closing within 2-1 in the fourth when Audrey Guerra lined a solo home run over the left-field fence,
With two outs, a walk put another Vela runner on base. Like in the previous innings when the Sabercats threatened, Litterio came through with a K.
The fifth inning was another stressful time for Warren as a walk, hit batsman and bunt single loaded the bases with no outs.
This time Vela capitalized by striking for two runs for a 3-2 lead.
Despite being behind for the first time in the playoffs, Warren remained calm and came back with the tying run in the sixth.
“We had to stay up after we got behind,” Garcia said. “When we came back and tied we knew we could win.”
Briana Arredondo singled and moved to third on Tori Jimenez’s double. An error enabled Warren to push across the tying run, but Vela prevented the Warriors from regaining the lead when shortstop Taylor Chavez leaped to spear Alana Medellin’s line drive and tossed to third to complete a double play.
Warren’s winning run came home an inning later.
Davis beat out an infield hit but was out on a force at second. With one out, Harpel lofted a double out of the reach of Vela’s outfielders and Austin Germain, who made it to first on a fielder’s choice, sped home with what turned out to be winning run.
“I knew I had to hit the ball somewhere on the ground,” Harpel said. “It was amazing to do that. I was so excited when we scored. We knew we just had to play Warren softball and we would be fine.”
During Vela’s final at-bat, Litterio was at her best sending the Sabercats down in order, two coming on strikeouts.
That served as a reminder to Morales how much progress the freshman pitcher has made since the beginning of the year.
“I remember the first game in our first tournament (Bryan-College Station), we were playing back-to-back-to-back state champion Keller,” Morales said. “I yelled at her and she started crying. After this game, I gave her a hug and told her ‘look how much you have grown.
“Annika found a way to win. We were mixing up the pitches to figure out what worked best. At the end we figured out a rhythm at the end it worked for her.
“Our whole team has grown. Dynasty has been struggling in the playoffs, but she came out huge right there. We figured out ways to score runs.”
A four-run fifth propelled the Warriors in game one.
Lauryn Hernandez started with a double and scampered home on Davis’ single. Davis moved to third on a throwing error and scored shortly after on Garza’s triple.
Harpel and Arredondo followed with RBI singles.
Litterio allowed six hits while striking out 10.
And now it’s on to trying for a bigger prize.
“It’s another week of softball,” Morales said. “I am so pleased with that.”
For video clips from the game log onto https://www.facebook.com/echosportzone/
To listen to the broadcast of the game log onto https://soundcloud.com/theechovoice/warren-edinburg-vela-softball-regional-semifinals
For images of the game log onto https://echosportszone.pixieset.com/