THE WOODLANDS — An opening weekend of competition ended for The Woodlands on Saturday with wins over separate Panther teams.
The day began with a 3-0 win over former District 15-6A foe Klein Oak, then ended with a 5-2 win over 2018 Class 4A state champion Liberty. Both games were five innings, cut by a tournament time limit.
The Lady Highlanders went 4-1 in their home round robin, also beating Bellaire and Cypress Ranch and taking their lone loss to Cinco Ranch.
“We’re trying to play the toughest competition we can,” The Woodlands coach Tim Borths said. “It just makes you better. All the coaches here, we have a great time and kind of have the same philosophies and mindsets about getting our kids ready. It’s not necessarily all about winning the games. We want to win, don’t get me wrong, but we’re really looking at the big picture and the long game. It’s a fun environment to have out here.”
It was a start to the season that was delayed by weather, and it was a long time coming after last year’s season was ended by the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been awesome to get back on the field,” Borths said. “I’ve got to credit my assistant Paula Miller. She had the best quote and said, ‘We couldn’t finish the 2020 season, and we couldn’t get the 2021 season started.’ Credit my players and the other teams, too, for being gracious, helping out and being accommodating. It’s been great to finally get started.”
In the win over Liberty, The Woodlands fell behind 1-0 after the opening inning. Baylor signee Kaci West and the Panthers defense then kept the Lady Highlanders off the board until the fourth inning.
West pitched all five innings, struck out 10, allowed six hits, earned four runs and walked four. The Woodlands had at least five batters foul of pitches with two strikes to extend at-bats against the ace.
“It’s all about the quality at-bats,” Borths said. “Seeing quality pitching — we’ve got (West) then the Cy Ranch pitcher, and really all of these staffs have some good pitching — that’s what it’s about. Nobody really cares what you do in February and March. It’s about April and May, and that’s preparation for April and May.”
In the top of the fourth, Hannah Gartner’s two-out double to the left-center wall scored Kiara Wiedenhaupt, who led off the inning with a walk. That tied the game at one.
After Liberty left two runners on in the bottom of the fourth, The Woodlands broke the game open with four runs in the top of the fifth.
Kayla Falterman, who was 3 for 3, led off with a single, then after an out Alannah Leach walked. Gabby Leach’s hard single scored Falterman to break the tie. Alannah Leach came home on a Wiedenhaupt double, then Gabby Leach scored on an error. Courtesy runner Avery Vasel scored on a Kaelyn Zusi sacrifice bunt to extend the lead to 5-1.
Bailee Slack led off the Liberty bottom of the fifth with a double, then got to third base on a wild pitch. Maci Beam’s groundout scored Slack, but the Panthers were unable to get closer.
Bri Dickson, who took over for started Emma Landauer with two runners on and nobody out, closed out the game. Landauer went four innings in the circle, allowed three hits, earned two runs and walked five.
The Lady Highlanders began their Saturday with a 3-0 win over Klein Oak in five innings.
All three runs were scored in the bottom of the third inning. Alannah Leach’s single played Falterman to break the scoreless tie, the Alannah Leach scored on Gabby Leach’s double. Gabby Leach came home on a throw that followed Haley Mountain’s single. Alannah Leach led the way with two hits.
Gabby Leach allowed two hits, three walks and struck out two in three innings of action in the circle. Dickson pitched two innings, allowed two hits, walked three and struck out one.
The Woodlands is back in action next weekend at the Barbers Hill Tournament.
“Our pitching still needs to get more consistent and our bats need to get consistent throughout the order and throughout the game,” Borths said. “We can’t wait until the end to jump on, so I’m just looking for continuous improvement and learning from each game. We’re on that track.”