HIGH SCHOOL SOFTBALL: Lady Bronchos band together to advance to third round

Odessa High head coach Rachel Pena compared last weekend’s area playoff series with Abilene high to a boxing match, with both teams giving and taking each other’s best shots.

In the end, the Lady Bronchos are the ones still playing after completing a Saturday sweep of the Lady Eagles.

Both wins came on the last at-bat of the game, with game-winning home runs by Emily Salgado in Game 2 and Christabelle Aguirre in Game 3.

Pena said it took every ounce of energy the team could muster but it was worth it to make sure that Odessa High guaranteed another week together.

“It was a hard-fought series the entire way,” Pena said. “The girls never gave up and that’s what I’m most proud of. It was a team effort where everyone contributed to the two wins.”

That resiliency helped the Lady Bronchos break through the roadblock that was the second round from the last few seasons to advance to the regional quarterfinals.

The team knows, however, that the work isn’t done.

Next up for the Lady Bronchos is District 2-6A rival Midland Lee in a best-of-three series starting at 6 p.m. tonight in Seminole.

The series continues with Game 2 at noon Saturday. If necessary, a deciding Game 3 would be played 30 minutes after Game 2. The winner faces the winner of Denton Guyer-Haslet Eaton in the regional semifinals next week.

“It’s really exciting,” senior infielder Hailey Prentice said. “This is something that we’ve been working towards since I was a freshman and being able to accomplish that is an amazing feeling.”

Prentice came up with a big hit of her own in Game 3 against Abilene High, a three-run home run that gave the Lady Bronchos a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning.

Abilene High tied the game up to force extra inning, then regained the lead in the eighth inning before Aguirre’s two-run homer kept Odessa High’s season alive.

“It felt good to come through and deliver a big hit like that,” said Aguirre of her home run. “Everyone was just supporting me and helping me the whole way.”

For Aguirre and her teammates, they needed every bit of that support over the weekend. But Pena said being there for each other has a team has helped make them stronger. That’s what she said helped the Lady Bronchos rally after falling in extra innings in Game 1.

“They wanted to win so bad and they never stopped fighting,” Pena said. “It says a lot about their want and fight. That was the key for us; not giving up on ourselves and leaning on our teammates.”

“(Abilene High) was a good team but we knew we had to come back stronger on Saturday,” Salgado said. “Everyone contributed to us getting here. We were just all there for each other and it felt great.”

The series win against the previously ranked No. 3 team in the state gave the Lady Bronchos a confidence boost.

But a new challenge awaits against Midland Lee as the two teams split a pair of district games earlier this season.

The team says that playing a familiar opponent helps but with more on the line, the Lady Bronchos know that the effort from last week will have to carry over.

“We just have to do what we know how to do which is relax and play our game,” Aguirre said.

“Midland Lee is a good team and we’ll have to be ready for the challenge,” Prentice said. “It won’t be too different playing at a neutral site.

“The key is simple: never give up and stay focused on what we have to do in order to win.”