San Antonio – Lauren Miller called it a “really bad hit.” Everyone else will know it as the hit that saved St. Mary’s season.
Capping off a remarkable sixth inning that saw the Lady Rattlers erase a one-run deficit in a must-win game against St. Edward’s in the Heartland Conference Tournament, Miller drilled a single to left field that drove in the winning run to secure a 4-3 triumph Friday at St. Mary’s Softball Fields.
Facing elimination, Miller’s hit came minutes after shortstop Richelle Morales (Jr., San Antonio) blasted a solo shot to center field, and helped the Lady Rattlers (35-18) recover from a 2-1 loss to Texas A&M International earlier in the day.
“It was a really bad hit, but the results were really cool,” said Miller, a senior outfielder from Baytown, Texas, whose blooper to left field was not grasped by the diving left fielder. “I guess at the top right now. I didn’t want today to be our last day. I put it all out there.”
Relegated to the loser’s bracket after its loss to A&M International, No. 1 seed St. Mary’s (35-18 overall) won their way into the Heartland Conference Tournament championship game, where it will play the third-seeded Dustdevils at 2 p.m. Saturday in the double-elimination tournament at St. Mary’s.
WATCH ST. MARY’S VICTORY OVER ST. EDWARD’S!
A St. Mary’s victory would force an extra game immediately following the 2 p.m. game to decide the champion, while a Dustdevils win would give them the title outright since they have yet to lose in the tournament.
Miller went 3 for 4 with one RBI and two runs scored against St. Edward’s, which dropped to 25-30.
St. Mary’s took a 1-0 lead in the third, but surrendered the advantage when St. Edward’s scored three in the bottom of the fourth. But the Lady Rattlers hung in there, battling back to cut the deficit to 3-2 in the fifth before winning it in the sixth.
The Rattlers couldn’t pull off such a comeback earlier in the day, when A&M International never trailed in its 2-1 triumph.
As important as St. Mary’s bats were down the stretch against the Hilltoppers, sophomore reliever Crystal Keller, a native of LaCoste, Texas, played just as significant a role.
The former high-school state champion from Medina Valley High School pitched 3 2/3 innings of no-hit softball, yielding just two base runners in the process (one walk, one hit-by-pitch).
Count Miller among those impressed – and thankful – for the gutsy effort.
“I think that our bullpen has done a good job of picking each other up, no matter what the rotation may be,” she said. “Their mindsets always result in a positive outcome for us.”
WATCH MILLER TALK ABOUT THE VICTORY
Now, St. Mary’s just hopes that mindset can yield a tournament championship – and a 10th ticket to the South Central Region tournament in coach Donna Fields’ 14 years at the helm – on Saturday.