CORPUS CHRISTI — New Braunfels Canyon is headed back to the regional final for a second straight season, proving why they are as tough as advertised.
The Cougarettes posted a furious nine-hit, 10-run first inning during a 16-1 win in five innings over the Harlingen South Lady Hawks in Game 2 of the best-of-three Class 6A regional semifinal series, completing the series sweep.
New Braunfels Canyon will meet Austin High next week.
“We picked a bad week to play our worst game,” Harlingen South coach Elias Martinez said. “But I told the girls the effort was great through out the series. We fell behind in the first inning but the girls never gave up and fought back, and we are proud of them.”
The Cougarettes collected 15 hits on 16 runs. Senior pitcher Aliyah Pritchett controlled the series, tossing a complete game Friday and taking the ball in Game 2. She was sharp as she threw five complete innings, walked three, allowed two runs and struck out six.
“We don’t take anything away from (New Braunfels Canyon), they are a great team and they got us this week,” Martinez said. “We knew what they were going to bring and we knew what we were up against, and our girls were up for the challenge. We just fell short.”
Pritchett, a Baylor University commit, helped her own cause with a 3-for-3 day at the plate, with three runs and two RBIs. Hunter Vestal, the younger sister of former Cougarettes and current Oklahoma player Brooke Vestal, picked up where her sister left off. The younger Vestal went 3-for-3 with two runs, a three-run homer and a team-high six RBIs.
Harlingen South wraps up its season with a 32-8 record and its second trip to the Sweet 16 during the past three years. South will graduate four seniors, losing two starters in shortstop Krystal Gonzales and left fielder Natasha Canales.
“Our nucleus is coming back, and a lot of our bats, too,” Martinez said. “We had a freshman and a sophomore in the circle for us, and for them to gain this experience at this level is great for them. We were proud to be the last (Rio Grande Valley) team standing in Class 6A.”
With seven returning starters coming back, the message was simple from Gonzales.
“This team means the world to me, and they were all amazing,” Gonzales said. “This is something that I will always remember. They were what we expected and it was tough, but we felt (Pritchett) got us with her changeup, she has a great changeup. My message to the younger girls is to just keep doing what you’re doing, they are an amazing group. They will just need to all step up next season.”