San Antonio – Shelly Lee knew the immediate ramifications when she stepped to the plate in the bottom of the eighth inning Saturday, but she hadn’t really pondered the bigger-picture significance of the moment.
In what will go down as the final at-bat in a regularly scheduled game at St. Mary’s Softball Fields, the Lady Rattlers’ sophomore right fielder drove in the winning run on a slapper up the middle to beat St. Edward’s 4-3 at home.
Lee, who went 2 for 4 with two RBIs, drove in designated player Alyssa Alfaro (Sr., Eagle Pass, Texas) with two outs to help the Rattlers secure the win after seeing a 3-0 lead wiped away in the sixth.
The victory clinched St. Mary’s (33-16, 12-3 in Heartland Conference) the regular-season conference title and also earned the Lady Rattlers the right to host the conference tournament, held April 29-May 1.
“I just wanted the win for the seniors,” said Lee, an O’Connor High School graduate whose senior teammates were honored prior to “Battle of the Saints” game as part of Senior Day. “I knew it was their last regular-season home game.
“(But) I hadn’t thought about the stadium being torn down and stuff. That’s crazy. But it started to sink in when I got that hit and the team came around me. It was really awesome, and it was completely a team effort.”
Lee gave St. Mary’s a 1-0 lead in the first, an advantage that was extended to 3-0 in the fifth. Third baseman Chelsea Wenske (Sr., Victoria, Texas) blasted a solo home run over the left-center-field wall, and center fielder Katie Nichols (So., San Marcos, Texas) later drove in another run on a groundout.
But St. Mary’s would not relent, bouncing back in extra innings for the monumental win.
Reliever Maricela Bissaro (Fr., San Antonio) earned the victory to improve to 9-5, while Crystal Keller (So., Castroville, Texas) played just as pivotal a role, pitching 2.1 scoreless innings in relief of ace Emily Brittain (Fr., Corpus Christi, Texas).
Entering the weekend likely needing two victories in the three-game series over St. Edward’s, Saturday’s game became a must-win when Texas A&M International defeated Texas-Permian Basin 7-3 earlier in the day.
The Lady Rattlers’ players were unaware of the result, knowing only that they controlled their own destiny.
St. Mary’s and Texas A&M International entered – and finished – the day tied atop the league standings, but the Lady Rattlers owned the tiebreaker by virtue of their 2-1 series victory over the Dustdevils last weekend.
With the Dustdevils winning, it put the pressure on the Rattlers to do the same, as a St. Mary’s loss would have meant the conference tournament would be played in Laredo, Texas.
That’s an alternate St. Mary’s doesn’t have to worry about thanks in large part to Lee’s at-bat.
The final at-bat at St. Mary’s Softball Fields? It’s something head coach Donna Fields will remember for some time.
“That hit reminded me a lot of Tiffany Craft in the ’03, ’04 years,” Fields said. “When the defense comes in like that and you’re able to thread the needle, that makes a slapper a very good slapper. I’m very proud of her. I will remember it.”