BANGS — No Bangs Lady Dragons softball squad has experienced more success than the 2014 edition. Having advanced past the first round of the playoffs just once in program history, the Lady Dragons find themselves in the fourth round this weekend — with no intentions of stopping there.
“We’ve received tons of community support and everyone in school has been really great with it,” said Bangs first-year head coach Scott Freeman. “Anything we need, they’ve really been helping us out. They girls are very excited and it’s a been a lot of fun.”
The Lady Dragons (24-3) will square off with the Bushland Lady Falcons (28-5) in a best-of-three Region I-2A softball semifinal series at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls this weekend. Game 1 is slated for 7 p.m. Friday with Games 2 and 3, if needed, set to begin at noon Saturday.
“Earlier in the year I didn’t know what to expect,” Freeman said. “I knew we were pretty good, but I didn’t know how good we could be. I think the seeding game against Early is when we started to realize we could be a pretty good team. Earlier in the year we had some ups and downs, but that can happen with some kids playing on varsity for the first time and a freshman pitcher.”
Bangs is carrying a nine-game win streak into the Bushland series, which includes a 7-1 playoff seeding victory over District 6-2A co-champion Early, a 2-0 bi-district triumph over Kermit, a come-from-behind 4-3 win over Comanche in the area round and last weekend’s 13-9 and 14-2 thrashings of Alpine in the regional quarterfinals.
During their nine-game win streak, the Lady Dragons have reeled off 80 runs — including 27 runs and 30 hits in the sweep of Alpine.
“One through five have been getting on base whether it’s bunts, base hits or walks, and then the bottom of the lineup has really stepped up the last two or three weeks with some big hits,” Freeman said. “They came up huge in the Comanche game and had a big weekend against Alpine. Being able to hit the ball one through nine has been a big key to our success.”
The Bangs offense is led by Jaylee Roberts (.516, HR, 37 RBIs), Kady Kyle (.511, 13 RBIs), Courtney Owen (.449, 5 HRs, 36 RBIs), Haley Pitts (.442, 3 HRs, 17 RBIs), Cheyenne Edwards (.410, 27 RBIs), Sarah Garcia (.403, 2 HRs, 18 RBIs), Maddie Browning (.375, 9 RBIs), Erin Anderson (.369 HR, 12 RBI), Raelee Francois (.306, 12 RBIs) and Kassidy Adams (.259, HR, 15 RBIs).
The Lady Dragons are hitting .415 as a team with 79 extra-base hits on the season.
In the circle, Anderson owns a 16-2 record with a 1.38 ERA, 120 strikeouts and only 11 walks in 121.2 innings. Freeman attributes Anderson’s success as a freshman to the fact that she often finishes games better than she starts them.
“Erin has been unbelievable,” Freeman said. “She seems to get better each week and throughout each game. Going all the way back to the Kermit game, teams have jumped on her early but she gets better as the game goes along. She’s used to pitching a lot of games in a day with her tournament team, and I think that helps with her getting stronger.”
Anderson and the rest of the Lady Dragons will be facing a Bushland squad that’s averaged 12 runs per game this season. The Lady Falcons’ stats are somewhat inflated due to four district victories over Dimmitt and Childress by a combined score of 106-1 (26-0, 23-0, 28-0 and 29-1).
In playoff action, Bushland notched bi-district wins of 19-2 and 15-0 over Littlefield, claimed a 4-3 area decision over Lamesa and defeated Coahoma, 8-7, in the regional quarterfinal round on a walkoff home run by Matti Dix.
The Lady Falcons chalked up 14 hits against Coahoma, compared to the five allowed by Bushland pitcher Taylor Cates. However, Bushland committed five errors, which could make the Lady Falcons vulnerable against a Bangs offense that has fanned only 99 times in 781 at-bats.
“Bushland hits the ball really well, they’re probably the best hitting team we’ve faced all year,” Freeman said. “Pitching wise, they have a girl that throws in the upper 50s and has some good movement. Defensively, they’re pretty solid. I’d say they’re probably the best team we’ve seen all year.”
As for the key to advancing, Freeman feels the Lady Dragons must cut down on their own errors, as Bangs has committed a dozen — an average of three per contest — in its four postseason games thus far.
“We have to avoid early errors, those killed us against Alpine, and we weren’t able to pull away until late,” said Freeman, whose team committed eight miscues in two games last weekend. “We also started off the Comanche game with two errors that put us in a hole. We have to play solid defensively; there’s no room for errors this time of year. The girls have been working hard to fix that.”
The series winner will advance to face either Hawley or Colorado City next weekend for the Region I-2A championship and a trip to the state tournament.