Lady Oilers slip past Seven Lakes to advance to finals

PEARLAND — No ever said it would be easy. When trying to make it to the state tournament, getting resistance is part of the process that makes a team better.

Pearland needed a challenge as the No. 3 state-ranked Lady O's faced No. 8 Katy Seven Lakes in the Class 6A Region III semifinals in a best-of-three series.

Some thought that Pearland had already faced their biggest challenge when they swept the No. 4 team in the country in Deer Park.

But the intensity of the playoffs didn't let up when Pearland had to face a gritty Seven Lakes team that was dead set on knocking off the Lady Oilers in an upset bid.

Pearland won the series opener when Aileen Garcia lined a bases-loaded single to left to score Ashlynn Walls for a walk-off 3-2 victory that took 10 innings to decide.

Alyssa Denham pitched seven innings, allowed four hits, two runs, four walks, and eight strikeouts. After walking the first two batters in the eighth, Denham was pulled by head coach Laneigh Clark. Adrianna Chavarria then came in and walked the next batter to load the bases.

Denham, after a short break, was reinserted in the circle, bore down, and struck out the next three batters, all swinging. She finished with 11 strikeouts.

Pearland scored a run in the bottom of the first and fifth innings before Seven Lakes got on the board with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth to let the Lady Oilers know they weren't going away.

That set up the next four scoreless innings for the Lady Spartans while Pearland closed out the game in the bottom of the 10th when Walls scored the game-winner.

Seven Lakes 5 - Pearland 1

Pearland scored their only run of the game in the top of the third and then Seven Lakes scored a pair in their half of the third for a 2-1 lead and they put the finishing touches on the Lady Oilers with three more runs in the bottom of fourth that would hold up for a 5-1 win to force a third and deciding game in a best-of-three series.

Pearland 8 - Seven Lakes 7

Pearland entered the bottom of the seventh inning in the deciding game against Seven Lakes leading 8-3.

The gritting Lady Spartans were not going to make it easy as they scored four runs in their last at bats to cut the margin to 8-7 with only one out and runners at the corners.

Alyssa Denham allowed two walks, two Pearland errors and two Seven Lakes hits quickly changed the outlook of the game from breezing on to the region finals to fighting to beat a never-say-die team that made things very uneasy.

“Basically, I told her (Denham) ‘get outs, get outs, get outs’,” Pearland head coach Laneigh Clark said of her advice to her star pitcher. “In the fourth round of the playoffs, this is how it’s supposed to be. Seven Lakes fought until the end.

“Their kids played with composure. Hopefully, we as a team learned and will get better from this.”

Denham managed to get Alexis Mirabal to pop up to second base for the second out of the inning which was key to Pearland's survival.

That brought up Kate Sampsell, and she battled Denham to the bitter end, before finally striking out to end the nerve-wracking series and propel the Lady Oilers to the region finals, just one series away from the state softball tournament.

Pearland's Sydney Gutierrez (2-for-4, 3 RBIs) blasted a solo home run and belted a two-run, bases-loaded double to help build an 8-1 lead.

Kaylee Buck was 2-for-2 with one run scored and one RBI with one walk. Natalie Romeo was 1-for-1 with one run scored and one RBI. Ashlynn Walls was 3-for-3 with one run scored and two RBIs. Lindsey Stewart was 2-for-4 with one RBI. Madison Clements was 2-for-3 with two runs scored.

Pearland will face Katy in the Region III finals. Katy faced Alvin in the other semifinal match-up and escaped 2-1 to also advance to the finals.

The Lady Oilers faced Katy in the Haynie Cancer Free Tournament in February and won the game 3-0. But that was very early in the season and both teams are much different than they were a few months ago.

Pearland will play Katy in a best-of-three series beginning on Thursday, May 26 at 7:00 p.m. at Katy Tompkins High School. Game 2 will be on Friday, May 27 at 6:00 p.m. at Manvel High School. Game 3 (if needed) will be at 8:30 p.m.