Hamlin faced the defending Class 2A champion Stamford in district play. Twice.
The Lady Pipers were ready for the playoffs. Even needing to wait a week.
Hamlin on Friday opened their own quest for softball prominence with a 6-2 Region I-2A area round win over Miles at the Cooper High School diamond.
Hamlin, now 19-5, moves on to play the Albany-Ozona series winner. That series opened Friday and is a best-of-3.
The Pipers drew a first-round bye. Miles had to play, and certainly did play, pounding Fort Hancock 29-4.
The teams squared off on the hottest day so far in Abilene, when the temperature exceeded expectations to rise to 102 degrees.
Hamlin started that hot, scoring four runs in the first inning. But it took pitcher Zoe Moore snaring a hot-liner right at her with two outs and a runner on the bottom of the seventh inning to get the win.
“My heart stopped,” Moore said of catching the liner by Miles’ Jessica Hinds. “I didn’t register with it … I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,”
She has never won a game like that before. And, really, she said she was ready for it.
“I’m glad she was,” Hamlin coach Jason Botos said after hugging Moore after the game. “We like to make it exciting.”
Botos was pleased with the start to the game, when Moore helped herself with a two-run single and scored on an RBI fly ball by Addison Yarbrough.
“We were excited and chomping at the bit,” he said.
However, Hamlin scored just two more runs, leaving two runners in scoring position in the third and the bases loaded in the fifth.
“That’s what I told the girls. We just got content. We didn’t swing the bat,” Botos said. “I told them, ‘You’re on cruise control.'”
And that made him nervous because he watched Miles win a pair of seedings game with rallies.
“I told them, ‘They’re not going to quit. You’ve got to put your foot on their throat.’ That’s something we’re going to have to work on, “he said. “It’s finishing and getting the job done.
“I’m proud of them, though.”
That may because the third-year coach got a playoff win. He thinks this is the first time in 12 years Hamlin has been in the playoffs.
“They worked for it,” Botos said.
Down 6-1, Miles got a run in the sixth thanks to two Hamlin errors. Emily Sklenarik arrived on dropped flyball and scored on a throwing error.
In the seventh, Jayden Hinds ripped a two-out single to right and Jessica Hinds smoked the liner right up the middle that was in Moore’s glove almost before she knew it.
Despite a nifty defense on the left side of the infield by third baseman Lexi Offield and shortstop Samantha Gonzalez, Hamlin committed four errors. Moore said she shrugged it off.
“I know my teammates played a heck of a game,” she said. The first eleven batters were retired. “They were doing amazing. I know errors happen. I trusted them the whole way.”
The Hamlin hurler gave up five hits overall, allowing the first with two outs in the fourth. Miles got three solid hits the final two hits,
“Their pitcher did a good job locating pitches early. It took us a few innings to get warm and after that, we just needed to string together those hard hits,” Miles coach Jayson Wilhelm said. “Instead we were kind of spacing them out. We never got in that rhythm of getting back-to-back-to-back hits until the end there.
“If that last one had been one way or the other, we might still be playing, I don’t know.”
Hamlin banged out seven hits, having to adjust to Sierra Ivey, a pitcher who doesn’t throw as hard as some of the pitchers in District 7-2A, Botos said.
He credited Wilhelm’s strategy.
“We were anxious. You could see that. She gets pop-ups and weak ground balls,” he said. “We did that for her.”
Hamlin made it 5-0 in the third when Moore reached on the infield single and scored on an error. RBI flyout challenge in the sixth drove in Offield, who had a triple.
Wilhelm considered Hamlin could advance another round, which was what he had he for.
Miles instead finished 15-5.
“I’m proud of the girls. We tied for a district championship,” said Wilhelm, who loses three seniors. “We had high expectations coming into the season but no means are we disappointed.”
And the Pipers may be the next big thing in the district that boasted the top team in Texas last year, and maybe again this year.
“Citlaly (Gutierrez) is going to graduate, so that helps out a lot,” he said, laughing.
Hamlin has one senior, who didn’t start.
“That’s the thing about our kids, we’re going to learn every single pitch something about ourselves,” Botos said. “I want them to be students of the game.”
Anson edges Miles in baseball opener
It was a doubleheader day for Miles fans, who also drove to Abilene see the Bulldogs take on No. 3 Anson in the first game of their bi-district baseball series at Cougar diamond.
Anson prevailed 5-3, leaving the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Tigers, however, had cashed in with four runs in the fourth after Miles had taken a 2-0 lead in the second.
Trevor Miller got the win, with Dylyn Pyle finishing seventh.
Game 2 is scheduled for a 3 pm start Saturday back at Cooper.
Greg Jaklewicz is editor of the Abilene Reporter-News and general columnist. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
REGION I-2A SOFTBALL PLAYOFF
Hamlin 6, Miles 2
Hamlin… 401… 001… 0 – 6… 7… 4
Miles… 000… 011… 0 – 2… 5… 2
Zoe Moore and Emily Duniven. Sierra Ivey and Natalie Fernandez. W – Moore. L – Ivey. 3B – Hamlin: Lexi Offield.
Records – Miles 15 = 5; Hamlin 19-5.