BELTON, Texas – Last year, a surprising season for the D'Hanis softball team ended with a 3-0 loss to Slocum in the state semifinals.
This year, the Cowgirls would not be denied.
After weathering an hourlong rain delay, D'Hanis used a potent mix of early offense and strong defensive play to edge Dodd City 2-1 at Dee Dillon Field, punching their tickets to the UIL Class 1A State championship game.
"I guess it was meant to be for us. We just had to wait a little longer," said head coach Jose Martinez. "This is awesome. I kinda figured that I'd feel this way, but I didn't know it was going to be this exciting. This is unbelievable for the girls, for the community and especially these four seniors that have been with me for four years. We're going to state. We've got a chance to win it."
"It feels so great," said freshman pitcher Marissa Santos. "I knew we could make it. Our town has such a big heart and when they follow you like this, they make it seem like everything is possible. It's just so great to be here."
D'Hanis opened the scoring in the bottom of the first. Madi Rhodes sneaked a base hit through into the outfield, driving in senior Chloe Cowan. The lead then doubled a few batters later, when Rhodes came home on a passed ball, putting D'Hanis up 2-0. That proved to be enough offense to secure the victory. The Hornets had a chance to tie the game in the top of the third, but sophomore Natalie McFadin tagged out the potential tying run on the third base path.
"It took us staying together," Martinez explained. "We scored two runs off of five hits and we just kind of made it hold up. Marissa pitched her tail off today and got us through some tough spots. We made some great plays in the outfield. But a lot of it is still unfinished business. We got here last year and felt if we hadn't been so nervous, we might have been playing on Saturday. We didn't do it, but this year we were composed, stayed within ourselves and we're still playing."
Now, the Cowgirls turn their sights toward bringing home a title, and with a newfound confidence on the biggest stage, the team feels they're ready for the challenge.
"Last year, the older girls said it was kind of surprising that they got here. Now, we know how we're here. This is a business trip and we're doing our business. If we do what we know how to do, we'll be good."
D'Hanis will face Chireno in the UIL Class 1A State Championship game at Red & Charline McCombs Field on Saturday at 9 a.m.