Round Rock rally takes team to third round of playoffs
WIMBERLEY – Despite a nightmare start to a playoff game against San Antonio East Central, Round Rock’s dream season continues.
The Dragons surrendered seven runs in the first inning of their Class 6A round robin match before rallying for a thrilling 9-8 victory in nine innings. Friday’s extra victory on the Wimberley High School softball field sends the Dragons into the third round of the state playoffs for the first time since 2005. They will meet No.3 Converse Judson next week.
“Things could have turned out the other way around, having been so broken down,” Round Rock coach Jennifer Painter said. “But the girls came together, they kicked the ball really well, and we just got around and plugged it in. Then we had great success.
“I am really very proud of them. This is the team I was waiting for. Throughout the year I have asked myself “Where is this team that I know?” They showed up on the last round and tonight.
Another playoff game looked unlikely after East Central’s first batting game, when the Hornets scored Round Rock’s sophomore Maddy Azua for five hits and seven earned runs. But Azua calmed down and stayed through the rest of the game as her pitch went from risky to dominant.
“I felt a little depressed after that first run because we were down a lot and didn’t have our energy,” said Azua, who was making his playoff debut. “But we came back, and I’m really proud of myself and my teammates for doing this. We were just screaming and screaming no matter what.
Maddy Azua steps in to help Round Rock win
After giving up those first five hits, Azua dispersed seven hits over the next eight innings. She also baffled the East Central hitters once she paired her power throw with a nasty change. Ten of his 13 strikeouts have come in the last five innings.
“I’ve never seen her throw like she did in the first run,” said Painter, who calls the shots from the canoe. “His mojo was right next to it. For her to calm down and come back is amazing, and she just got stronger and stronger as the match progressed. Her change didn’t work, but when I realized it worked, it’s money. And it was money tonight; it was our favorite pitch.
Azua, who has been Round Rock’s hobbyhorse in the circle all season, also played a big part in the plate. She joined Bailee Morrison and Kim Yepez as each hit three hits against center-east pitcher Holly Ayala. Overall, Round Rock had 15 hits and put pressure on a Hornet defense who made five mistakes.
Round Rock (14-3) scored three unearned runs in the second and third innings and took an 8-7 lead with five runs in the fourth. A triple from Morrison led in the first two innings of the set, and Morrison and Maddie Woodul crossed plate after a Yepez single and Hornet error to tie the game. Maia Garza then went on to string Round Rock’s sixth hit of the inning into left field to assassinate Yepez and give the Dragons their one-point lead.
The Hornets (17-11-1) responded with a two-point brace by Ayala in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game. The two pitchers then settled into a duel for four scoreless innings.
Round Rock finally broke through at the top of the ninth when Garza started with just one fielder to the left. With two outs, Morrison threw a blooper into the shallow center, where three center-east players rushed to get under the ball. He appeared to deflect the glove from shortstop Erin Villela and was ruled an error, and Garza crossed home plate for the start.
Azua gave up a two-out single on the field to Jordyn Lopez at the bottom of the set, but ended the game well with a strikeout to spark a wild celebration that included relief as well as joy.
“Even when things weren’t going the way we wanted, we just wanted to keep that same positive energy,” Azua said.