Softball: Alice stuns Pecos to capture little league state title

Staff Reports
The 2021 Senior Softball Texas West Little League State Champions. Kneeling left to right: Neveah Diaz and Gabby Gonzalez. Standing left to right:  Cristela Trevino, Kaylie Barrera, Isabella Perales, Mariana Molina, Zalexis Perez, Deeandra Maldonado, Stephanie Salinas, Avalyn Gonzales, Brooke Castillo, Abigail Rivera, Alyssa Rivera, coach Zaleigh Perez, League resident Michael Escobar and coach Kayla Escobar.

ABILENE — The Alice Senior Softball All-Stars capped an undefeated run at the Texas West Little League Softball State Tournament with a 9-8 come-from-behind win against Pecos Little League at Kirby Lake Park in Abilene.

The win secured the league’s fourth state title in its 17-year existence. Since its inception in 2004, Alice Little League Softball has qualified 23 teams for the State tournament, missing only the 2008 and 2019 seasons. This season, Alice punched a return ticket to state by completing a series sweep of Calallen-area Oil Belt Little League at the Section IV Tournament held in Alice at the end of June.

Alice Little League Softball won back-to-back Big League Southwest Regional Championships in 2011 and 2012. The league last won a state championship in the 11 year old division in 2014, when this year’s coaches, Kayla Escobar and Zaleigh Perez won the title as players.

THE ROAD TO STATE

In the opening round against Section I Champion Pecos, Alice led the entire game, taking an early two-run lead in the first inning. Pecos quickly cut the lead in half, but stranded three runners when right fielder Avalyn Gonzales raced in for a two-out, shoestring catch to stall the early rally.

Alice never looked back, scoring early and often with two runs in the second, one in the third, four in the fourth and three more in the sixth. Stellar defense, led by left fielder Neveah Diaz, kept Pecos’ bats from breaking through. Pitchers Kaylie Barrera and Zalexis Perez combined to allow only four hits in the 12-5 win.

Catcher Cristela Trevino led the offensive attack, going 3 for 4 with two doubles, four RBI and two runs scored. Stephanie Salinas finished 2 for 4, with two runs and a stolen base. Alyssa Rivera, Isabella Perales, Barrera and Diaz each had a single.

The win set up a semifinal game against San Antonio Greater Helotes. Alice would strike first in the top of the third, plating three runs on six hits. Trevino again delivered the clutch hit, driving in two runs on a line drive to right.

Barrera made quick work of Helotes batters through three innings, needing only 30 pitches to retire nine straight, including two strikeouts. In the fourth, Helotes broke up the no-hitter with a leadoff single and took advantage of a walk and an error to cut the lead to one.

Alice went back to work in the fifth. After Perez scored on a dropped fly ball to left, Perales, tagging up from third, scampered home on an infield fly. Diaz would then drive in Barrera on a line drive to left to widen the score to 6-2.

After Helotes cut the lead in half again, the all-stars padded their lead in their final at-bat, scoring three runs on two singles and two doubles. Perez secured the 9-4 win, allowing only one hit in the final two innings.

Diaz anchored the offense, going 4 for 4 with a double and two RBI. Trevino, Salinas, Perales and Barrera chipped in with a pair of hits each.

Pecos climbed out of the loser’s bracket, scoring nine runs in the final two innings against Helotes to set up another game against Alice for the championship.

In the title game, Pecos carried their semifinal game momentum through five and a half innings, scattering six timely hits and capitalizing on six fielding errors to cruise to an 8-1 lead. With only four outs remaining, Alice’s offense finally punched a hole in the defense.

Perez smashed a two-out, two-run double to deep left field, scoring Salinas and Brooke Castillo. After a Perales walk, Barrera and Trevino followed with back-to-back RBI singles, giving Alice some life heading into the seventh inning.

Perez only needed eight pitches to retire the side in the top half of the inning.

Still trailing by three, Alice began their final at-bat loading the bases on two walks and an Avalyn Gonzales base hit. Then with one out, Castillo belted a two-run double to the center field wall to pull within one. After an intentional walk to Perez to load the bases, Perales drew an eight-pitch walk, scoring Alyssa Rivera to tie the game. With the bases still loaded and a 1-1 count, Barrera lined the ball to left field for the walk-off winner to clinch the state title.

The league is planning a ceremony in September at the Alice Little League Softball Complex to honor this year’s championship team.