O’Connor, Warren, Holmes head to round three

By Pat Turner

O’Connor, Warren and Holmes are still going strong after the Class 6A area softball playoffs.

Because of that success this past week, round three could provide even more excitement for District 28-6A’s three teams.

O’Connor (21-8) and Warren (23-5) get a rematch against one another. Holmes (23-6), on the other hand, gets a shot at New Braunfels Canyon, the team which knocked the Huskies out in the regional quarterfinals a year ago.

All three teams got to their current point in impressive fashion. Warren hammered out 6-0, 8-0 wins over Austin Lake Travis. Holmes earned a 7-1, 5-4 sweep over Leander Vista Ridge. O’Connor, however, had a tougher obstacle in its best-of-three series with Johnson, the top-ranked team in the nation in some polls.

Johnson took a 9-0 win in game one, but the Panthers bounced back Saturday with a 7-4 win in game two and followed that with a 3-1 victory.

Pitching was a big reason for Holmes and O’Connor’s sweeps.

Jalissa Alicea led the Huskies.

In the first game, Alicea held Vista Ridge to four hits and struck out seven while going 3 for 4 with two RBIs.

JimmieLee Garcia, Alissa Martinez, Eryka Guerrero and Ariana Martinez provided offensive highlights.

Her effort in the game two helped clinched the series as she scattered eight hits and struck out 10 while knocking in a run.

This contest was a little more intense. However, in the early going it appeared to be another dominant performance by Holmes as the Huskies sprang to a 5-0 advantage.

Alissa Martinez ripped a solo homer in the second and a four-run burst followed in the third.

Alicea sliced a run-scoring double and Martinez and Guerrero punched out RBI singles.

Vista Ridge began whittling away the deficit with three runs in the sixth, before pulling within a run in the seventh.

With the tying run on third and the winning run at first, Alicea clinched Holmes victory with a strikeout.

“At the end it was scary, but we knew we could get the outs,” Alicea said. “Every inning we talked about playing together. I just tried to show confidence and make my pitches.”

Holmes came up with big plays offensively and defensively the entire series. Each time it happened, a bigger boost of confidence followed. In a nutshell, that made the difference.

“Games like this build character,” Holmes coach Brian Sandera said. “They build some much in you. It’s teaching our young players how to weather a storm and how to fight to the end. They believe in each other and they know to get it done.”

Warren pitcher Annika Litterio tossed a three-hitter with 13 strikeouts in the opener and handcuffed Lake Travis with eight strikeouts during a four-hit showing in game two.

She was also aided by big plays from her defense, especially in the first inning.

In the fourth inning, Lake Travis had an opportunity break a 2-0 deficit after putting runners at second and third. Nothing came of it as a strikeout and fly to left fielder Cassie Davis enabled Warren to maintain its advantage.

Another defensive highlight came in the sixth when catcher Briana Arredondo’s bullet to second baseman Dynasty Harpel foiled an attempted steal.

“I felt really good,” Litterio said. “I trusted in my team. My defense was behind me. We were getting the hits. We knew if we got everyone working together we would be fine. When we play like we can play, we’re golden.”

Litterio worked under comfortable game conditions in both games. In the opening bout, Lauren Garcia’s two-run home run in the seventh might have drawn the most excitement as far as offense, goes, but Arredondo’s RBI double and Alana Medellin’s run-scoring single in the earlier innings provided an early lead.

Warren didn’t waste a minute controlling game two as the Warriors exploded for seven runs in the first inning with the hitting of Garcia, Austin Germain, Arredondo and Lauryn Hernandez, who had a three-run double.

“I told the girls if we hit the ball we’re going to win the game,” Morales said. “We got the hits and Annika really pitched well.”

O’Connor had a huge obstacle to overcome after the thumping in the first game.

However, the Panthers came back strong Saturday and became the dominant team.

Johnson outhit O’Connor, 8-6, but the Panthers made their at-bats count in leaping to a 7-0 lead on the work of Gaby Kats, Dani Pedraza, Gabby Guzman and Olivia Ball.

Johnson rallied for four runs in the seventh, but the Panthers were able to wrap up the victory and send the series to a third game.

O’Connor leaped in front once again with a 3-0 lead.

Ball got the Panthers on the board in the first when she doubled and scored on a passed ball.

O’Connor tacked on a run in the second with Alejandro’s RBI single and added another in the fourth.

O’Connor pitcher Rebecca O’Connor prevented the Jaguars from getting on a roll, allowing four this and fanning four.

Johnson managed to touch the Panthers for a run in the fifth and had a potential threat going in the seventh when the Jaguars began the frame with a double.

That didn’t rattle Rebecca O’Connor as the Panthers pitcher retired the next three batters.

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