Softball regional quarterfinals and area championship baseball are on tap for the Aledo High School diamond squads as both the Ladycats softball team and Bearcats baseball squad begin respective playoff series on Thursday.
The Ladycats will face state-ranked No. 10 Birdville in a best-of-3 regional quarterfinals series, with all games being played at Northwest ISD’s Eaton High School (1350 Eagle Blvd., Fort Worth).
Game 1 will be at 7 p.m. Thursday (May 12), with Game 2 set for 7 p.m. Friday. If a third game is necessary, it will be played at 2 p.m. on Saturday.
Ladycats head coach Heather Oakes feels her team gained a lot of confidence after sweeping state-ranked Azle in an area series last week.
“Winning the Azle series gives these girls a ton of confidence,” Oakes said. “It is fun watching them grow up. I have been telling them all year that they are better then what they actually think of themselves – and I have been telling them they can go as far as they want (in the playoffs) – and I think they are starting to see it now.”
The Ladycats are riding the strong and successful arm of pitcher Hannah Andrews, who came into her own during the Azle series. The junior limited the highly-potent Lady Hornets’ offense to a single run in two games, including an eight-inning shutout in the series clincher.
“I would put Hannah up against any pitcher in the state,” Oakes said. “She gets it done. She had all of her pitches working for her in the Azle series, and she was hitting her spots and using her spins. She is just a phenomenal pitcher. For a junior she is very composed.”
The winner of the series will advance to the regional semifinals and play the winner of the Canyon Randall/Lubbock High School regional quarterfinals series.
Pitching is an obvious strength for the Aledo Bearcats, who can throw three legitimate starting pitchers at opponents in the playoffs with Cody Bradford, Kannon Brown and Jacob Ashkinos. Bradford threw a two-hit shutout in the Bearcats’ 5-0 bi-district win over Western Hills.
The Bearcats will take on familiar playoff foe Wichita Falls Rider, a team Aledo defeated in this same round last year. Rider is the District 5-5A champion.
All games in the best-of-3 area playoff series will be played at Bowie High School (341 Us Highway 287 North Access Road, Bowie, Texas, 76230).
Game 1 will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, with Game 2 scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday. Game 3, if necessary, will be at noon Saturday.
Aledo head coach Chad Barry has yet to reveal his starting pitchers for the first two games of the series.
“Pitching and defense is what we hang our hat on,” Barry said. “Those two areas determine how far you go (in the playoffs). Good pitching and defense usually will win out in the long run. We again feel like our pitching staff is talented and very deep and is again the cornerstone of our success.”
Barry is also hoping his bats stay hot. The ‘Cats have scored 30 runs in their past three games, including hanging 12 runs on Granbury, a team that shut out Aledo the first time the two teams met in District 8-5A play.
“We seem to finding our swing again,” he said. “I like what I am seeing out of the lower half of our lineup. If they can do what they have been able to do, then at some point it should create situations in which pitchers will have to challenge the top part of our lineup and I think good things can happen for us.”
Barry said experience is the main strength of the Rider Raiders.
“Rider has quite of few starters back from last season’s team, so experience is a major strength,” he said. “They again won their district, and seem to be playing good baseball right now. Their pitching is solid, and their starters seem to be able to throw an assortment of pitches for called strikes. So offensively we will have to be opportunistic, and capitalize when mistakes are made.”
The winner of the series will advance to the regional quarterfinals and play the winner of the state-ranked No. 7 Grapevine/Granbury area series.
Softball Regional Quarterfinals Series
Ladycats vs. No. 10 Birdville
(all games at Northwest Eaton High School)
Game 1: 7 p.m. Thursday
Game 2: 7 p.m. Friday
Game 3 (if necessary): 2 p.m. Saturday
Baseball Area Championship Series
Bearcats vs. Wichita Falls Rider
(all games at Bowie High School)
Game 1: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Game 2: 7:30 p.m. Friday
Game 3 (if necessary): Noon Saturday