Lady Cats seal state trip
Gallaway, Salsman homer in 11-0 win over Brock
By Richard Greene
The afternoon after thunderstorms halted action, it was the thunderous crack of Preslee Gallaway’s bat that sent the Pilot Point Lady Cats on their way to Austin.
The Pilot Point sophomore launched a two-out, two-run homer over the leftfield wall in the first inning. It was the first of two home runs and one of 14 hits by the Pilot Point offense in the 11-0 five-inning victory Saturday to sweep the Class 2A Region II Final series from Brock.
“This game was awesome,” Gallaway said. “We went beyond ourselves tonight.
“That home run was amazing. Hitting it over and having that relief from knowing we had the two runs was amazing.”
The Lady Cats, who have been ranked No. 1 for most of the season in the Texas Girls Coaches Association Class 2A poll, head to Austin for the second time in the program’s history and the first time since 2005.
Pilot Point coach James Ramsey praised his squad on the accomplishment.
“Moving down [from 3A] everyone had us at the top,” said Pilot Point coach James Ramsey. “Then five weeks into the season we move up to No. 1. That’s a heavy burden with everyone trying to give you their best game. We withstood it, kept playing and kept playing and just found a way.”
Senior center fielder Sierra Brooks made the Lady Cats’ reservation in Austin, punching a walkoff single up the middle to score Skylar Cagle and Preslee Gallaway to reach the mercy rule.
“When I was up there the whole time I was whispering to myself that I can do this,” Brooks said. “It was my time to shine. It was the most exciting thing.
“It came right off the sweet spot, I saw it go right down the middle and I was like I don’t think they are going to get to that.”
The hit set off a wild celebration at home plate.
“It is a dream come true,” said Pilot Point senior pitcher Skylar Cagle. “We fought the odds all year long. This has been our dream for four years.
“This was such a team effort. This is why started pulling tires in August. Look where it got us.”
As has been the case throughout the playoffs, Cagle played a huge part in the state-tournament-clinching win, recording her fifth shutout of the playoffs. She struck out six and allowed three hits Saturday.
In two games and 12 innings against Brock, Cagle struck out 22 and allowed three hits.
“Typical Skylar. I don’t know have the number on the top of my head but she hasn’t given up many runs throughout the playoffs,” Ramsey said before coming up with the right answer - three. “In the playoffs facing good hitters, that’s unbelievable.”
But Cagle needed an assist from Gallaway in the field in the top of the first to preserve the shutout and keep Brock from grabbing the early lead.
Picking up from where action stopped Friday, Brock had runner at first and second. After Cagle struck out Morgan Ashmore, Jordin Albertson hit an infield single between short and third. Shambry Sanders tried to score on the hit, but was gunned down at the plate with a throw from Gallaway to catcher Xena Barbour.
“That was so nerve-racking, starting back where we left off,” Gallaway said. “I knew we had to get the girl out. For Xena to catch that ball right there and get that tag was amazing.”
Ramsey agreed that it was a huge play.
“To get them out was big. Obviously, he was trying to get them on the board early,” Ramsey said about Brock coach Ryan Starnes. “We were able to get the throw and the tag. It was a great job.”
Gallaway followed up in the next half inning with her home run.
Starnes said the early homer took a lot out of his squad.
“The two-run home run in to the bottom of the first inning was deflating to the kids,” he said. “But Gallaway has done that several times in the playoffs. We never responded after that.
“This was the first time we lost back-to-back games and were run-ruled.”
The Pilot Point bats were far from finished. Kalyn Salsman led off the bottom of the second with a solo blast over the left-center field fence.
“I knew they were going to come back strong, and we had to come back stronger,” said Salsman about her first homer of the year. “As a senior, I wanted to step up and give in my all.”
Salsman was the first of nine batters to step to the plate for the Lady Cats in a three-run inning that gave the Lady Cats a 5-0 lead.
Allison Strittmatter drove home a pair of runs with a two-out single to left field off Brock pitcher Krysten Marr, who came in after Ashmore had walked the bases loaded.
Pilot Point added two more in the third with a sacrifice fly from Cagle and Gallaway’s third RBI on a single to right to take a 7-0 advantage.
Gallaway reached base all four times, going 2-for-3.
Pilot Point closed the game out in the bottom of the fifth with another four hits, including Brooks’ clinching single.
“They were ready,” Ramsey said. “We talked about it all night and all day. We wanted to end it quickly. We got on them early and it snowballed from there. The kids were ready to make a statement today. They really were.”