Giant-killers

Wendy Larsen

It might have surprised a lot of people that an old District 24-5A rival would be standing in Pearland’s path to the state softball tournament in Austin, but don’t count Laneigh Clark as one of those individuals.

The Lady Oiler head softball coach is keenly aware of her former foes on a first-hand basis.

Pearland has already knocked Brazoswood out of the playoffs, and the Lady Oilers would like nothing more than to eliminate the Lady Wildcats from the post-season parade when the teams begin a best-of-three Class 5A regional final series Thursday at the University of Houston.

Game one will start at 7:30 p.m., game two is set for 7 p.m. Friday and game three, if necessary, will be played at noon Saturday.

“Creek comes from a predominantly great softball district,” Clark said. “When you play teams from that district, you have to make sure everything is clicking.

“Creek has a great pitcher, and they wait for you to make mistakes. I think it will be a great series.”

The youthful Lady Oilers (34-6-1) continue to defy odds.

After surviving certain defeat against Brazoswood, Pearland then won a 4-3 nail-biter over District 22-5A rival Deer Park in a one-game playoff.

In the regional semifinals, Pearland took on Bellaire, a team that shredded the Lady Oilers 12-1, earlier this year.

In that best-of-three series, Pearland won the opener 3-0, dropped the second game by a 5-4 count, and then rallied for a 4-3 win in game three to earn the date with Clear Creek.

Lady Oiler first baseman Megan Coronado, who delivered a two-run triple in the fifth inning, never doubted Pearland would win a game it trailed 3-0 entering the fifth.

“Their pitcher had a four-inning no-hitter going, and then we got ourselves pumped up,” Coronado said. “We’re young and spunky. On every at-bat, everyone is pumped.

“It was another big team effort, and it took all of us to win it.”

Pearland managed to get two runners on to start the fifth inning and were sacrificed to second and third. That brought Coronado to the plate in prime RBI position.

“Coach Clark told me to go for it if I see a good pitch I can drive,” Coronado said. “That was the fattest pitch I’ve seen in a while.

“I knew it was a gapper when I hit it - it felt so good. That really pumped us up.”

That pulled Pearland within 3-2 and the following inning, the Lady Oilers scored two more.

After the Lady Oilers put a baserunner on, senior Kimberlee Rychlik hit a shot to right field.

“The right fielder misjudged it and it went to the fence,” Clark said. “When I saw Bellaire’s second baseman out of position, I just waved Kimberlee on around and that got us the fourth run.”

Rychlik also delivered a two-run double against Brazoswood that kept Pearland alive in the playoffs.

“She’s worked so hard this year,” Coronado said of Rychlik. “She’s something else. She hits every day, all the time. If it needs to get done, she’ll do it.”

Clark didn’t have any special words of advice prior to the series with Bellaire.

“I just told our players that we were a different team at the beginning of the season and so was Bellaire,” Clark said. “These kids just never quit. They do the right things and make the right decisions.

“We’ve obviously had some breaks along the way, too.”

Coronado said she’s glad to have a Tuesday off to prepare for this weekend’s big series.

“That’s a big benefit,” Coronado said. “We can actually practice, and our pitchers can rest their arms.

“To be playing at UH is great, too, because it will be nice to see what it’s like before we get to the D-1 level.”

Coronado believes Pearland is peaking as it enters its series with Creek.

“Defensively, I think we’re doing amazing,” she said. “Offensively, we’re coming up with the clutch hits.

“When Jessica (Bowden) or Brook (Dubois) is on the mound, we have a lot of confidence in them. I just tell them, ‘we’ve got your back.’ I tell both of them that if they hit their spots, we’ll get the out.

“We’re ready for Creek, and we’ll see what happens.”