Lady Oilers fall to Keller in state title game

PEARLAND — One day the Pearland Lady Oilers are jumping with joy and the next day they are holding on to one another in sadness. That is the emotions that are experienced when a team wins and then loses at a state championship event.

Pearland faced the Wesleco Lady Panthers in the Class 6A state semifinals at the Red & Charline McCombs Field on the University of Texas at Austin campus.

Senior All-State pitcher Alyssa Denham certainly did her part in the semifinal contest as she limited the Lady Panthers to only four hits, no runs, and struck out seven from the pitching circle.

Denham helped her own cause at the plate as she drove in two runs with a double and single to lead the Lady O's to a 4-0 shutout and a shot at a third state championship.

The Lady Oilers won it all in 1996 and 2010.

Pearland got a run-scoring single from Kaylee Hoppens in the fourth inning for the game-winning run, but the Lady Oilers added three insurance runs in the top of the seventh just to make sure they got the victory.

In the top of the seventh, Sydney Gutierrez drew a one-out walk. Lindsey Stewart laced a single to right moving Gutierrez to third and the speedy Stewart moved to second on the late throw to third.

After Ashlynn Walls lined out, Denham stepped up to the plate and blasted a 3-2 pitch to left centerfield to send Gutierrez and Stewart across the plate for a 3-0 lead.

Aileen Garcia then stepped up to the plate and smashed a ball off the centerfield wall to score courtesy runner Lauren Shepherd for a 4-0 cushion.

“I could tell when we got out here (Denham) was focused,” Pearland head coach Laneigh Clark said. “She was ready to go. Nothing new. She’s been doing this the past five or six weeks.

“I thought she was very composed, and she helped herself out with the double.”

Wesleco challenged Denham (22-3) who had to work out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning, but the Lady Panthers were unable to get the clutch hit and the Pearland defense came up with the key plays to maintain the shutout.

“I didn’t think we stuck to our game plan right at the beginning,” Clark said. “I thought we hit the ball OK, and then long fly balls were well-hit, but our game plan is to keep it on the ground.

“We have to push it through somehow. I could tell that something would go through eventually."

Pearland finished with nine hits as Natalie Romeo was 2-for-4; Stewart was 2-for-4 with one run scored; Denham was 2-for-4 with two RBIs; Garcia was 2-for-3 with one RBI; and Hoppens was 1-for-3 with one RBI.

Keller 5 - Pearland 0

It is a rare feat when a team can hold a Pearland team to no runs, but that is exactly what it took for the Keller Lady Wildcats to do in order to pull off a win over the Lady Oilers.

Keller’s first inning began with a one-out walk to Kourtney Willliams. Camryn Woodall then laced a shot to centerfield that was just out of the reach of Pearland centerfielder Lindsey Stewart who gave chase to the wall for a run-scoring triple.

Keller cleanup hitter Shelby Henderson then crushed a two-run home run well over the left-centerfield fence for a 3-0 cushion.

The Lady Indians lead went to 4-0 in the second inning when Kennedy Legg drew a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice by Hanna Jones. After a fly out, leadoff hitter Amanda Desario punched an RBI-single to right field.

Keller added one more run in the top of the fourth to post the 5-0 final score.

Meanwhile, Keller pitcher Kaylee Rogers was in full control as she allowed only four hits while striking out five and issuing no free passes.

“I’m going to give (Rogers) kudos,” Pearland head coach Laneigh Clark said. “I thought she did a great job of keeping us off-balance.

“She took the bats out of our hands. Obviously, they picked her as the most valuable player of the tournament, and I think she deserved it.

“She kept the ball on the outside corner and kept them low, and we probably swung at some things we shouldn’t have.”

The key to Rogers pitching performance was she didn't allow Pearland top four batters to get a hit as they went 0-for-11.

The only Pearland players who got a hit was Ashlynn Walls, Aileen Garcia, and Madison Clements who had two hits.

Alyssa Denham pitched the first four innings giving up all five runs, four hits, one strikeout, four walks, and one home run.

Clark brought in sophomore Adrianna Chavarria who didn't allow another run, gave up two hits, got four strikeouts, and issued one walk.