LEANDER — The Flower Mound softball team didn’t lack for opportunities to make Friday’s Class 6A state semifinal interesting.
But for any pressure the Lady Jaguars applied — and there was plenty over the ballgame’s final two innings — the Deer Park defense always finished one step ahead. Such was the case in the bottom of the seventh inning with the bases loaded and two outs, as a Flower Mound ground ball spelled the end to the program’s best season ever in a 2-0 loss to the Lady Deers at Leander Glenn High School.
“We just didn’t get the timely hit. But that’s a really good team — like really good,” said Mark Larriba, Flower Mound head coach. “We just couldn’t come up with that clutch hit. There were chances, but we made too many errors. It wasn’t just one person who did it. There were chances those last two frames but we couldn’t get someone across.”
FINAL: Deer Park 2, Flower Mound 0Flower Mound scraps to make it interesting late, loading the bases with 1 out, but the Deer Park defense makes the stand. Grounder to short ends this one, as the Lady Jags' best season ever ends in the state semifinals. pic.twitter.com/VWcMLbQa44— Matt Welch (@MWelchSLM) June 5, 2021
As Deer Park clung to its two-run lead over the final two innings, the Lady Jaguars upped their firepower after a dormant start at the plate. In the bottom of the sixth inning, senior Brooke Nauman broke up a perfect game by Deer Park’s Hannah Benavides with a double to center field. She later advanced to third base on a two-out single by sophomore Logan Halleman, but Benavides buckled down to strike out freshman Emma Wier and keep Deer Park’s two-run edge intact.
Flower Mound mounted an even stronger threat in the bottom of the seventh. Junior McKenna Andrews was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and junior Carsyn Lee followed with a single to put two runners on with no outs. Senior Courtney Cogbill later drew a walk with one out to load the bases.
The Lady Deers clamped down from there. Flower Mound grounded a pitch back to the circle as Benavides then threw out a runner at home, and the pitcher then induced a grounder to short that allowed Madison Bailey to tag sophomore courtesy runner Maithili Shah for the final out.
“[Benavides is] tough. She threw a great game,” Larriba said. “We hit the ball early at people and then later on we finally started finding gaps. I think offensively it was what we thought we could do against them, except score some runs.”
Bot 7: Business is picking up. Flower Mound's Carsyn Lee singles to LF and 2 runners are on with 0 outs. Deer Park leads 2-0 in the 6A state semifinals. pic.twitter.com/UpkXWPjOZs— Matt Welch (@MWelchSLM) June 5, 2021
Benavides tossed all seven innings on Friday, allowing just three hits while striking out seven batters and walking one. The Lady Jaguars were stout in that area as well — sophomore Landrie Harris limited Deer Park to just two hits to go along with 10 strikeouts and one walk.
But even then, Deer Park found ways to pressure Flower Mound. In defeat, the Lady Jaguars committed four errors, including two in the decisive fifth inning that contributed to the night’s only two runs. Bailey led off the inning by reaching base on an error and later scored after Bryanna Fuentes bunted into a fielder’s choice that led to two runs scoring after a fielding error at home plate.
“Maybe a little tight, nervous. We’re relatively young, but Deer Park puts a lot of pressure on you,” Larriba said. “Credit to them, but we normally make those plays. We started playing better at the end and loosening up, but that’s no excuse. They beat us tonight.”
Prior to Friday’s contest, Flower Mound had committed just five errors total across its 11 playoff games.
“All night they were on base and we were fighting uphill,” Larriba said.
It was a wrong kind of symmetry to an otherwise dream postseason for the Lady Jaguars, whose march to state began, ironically enough, in a 2-0 loss in Game 1 of the bi-district round against McKinney Boyd.
Flower Mound brushed that setback aside and went on to win nine of its next 10 games, outscoring opponents 78-17, to qualify for the state tournament for the first time in program history. Overall, the Lady Jaguars went 36-4-1 on the year.
“The seniors did an amazing job. They bought in and fought really hard,” Larriba said. “It was a special season but a tough pill to swallow. I know the world measures you on wins and losses but we feel like we win championships every year because our goal is to be good mentally, spiritually and physically. That’s how we measure ourselves.”