UNIVERSITY PARK -- Hallsville is bound for the Class 5A state tournament in Austin, but even that might not compare to what happened at Highland Park High School.

The Ladycats were finally able to let go of the past Saturday with a 5-0 win against Lucas Lovejoy in Game 3 of the Region II championship series.

Three-hundred and seventy-two days of frustration gone in a flash. In front of a crowd that filled the bleachers, the standing room and extended into the school's adjacent four-story parking garage.

"Last year was heartbreaking," junior third baseman Hannah Mizell said. "This year has been leading up to this point. We knew without a doubt we were going to state. There was no giving up and there were no other options for us."

Don't let the final score fool you. There were points where Lovejoy (29-6) nearly pulled the rug out from under Hallsville (36-2).

Lovejoy starting pitcher Danielle Brochu, an Arkansas signee, owned a no-hitter through four full innings and only had faced one batter above the minimum. Mizell took it away with one swing of the bat in the top of the fifth, a two-run homer to right field for a 2-0 lead.

It was Mizell's first home run of the season.

In the bottom of the fifth, Lovejoy put together its best threat of the game. It loaded the bases with one out and had its two and three-hole hitters due up. Mizell, catcher Emma Hawthorne and pitcher Cassidy Ferrill saved the day.

Lovejoy's JoJo McRae wrapped up a seven-pitch at-bat with a chopper three-quarters of the way down the third base line. Mizell fielded it cleanly and delivered it to Hawthorne for a force out at the plate.

The very next pitch, against Brochu, Ferrill's throw bounced off the plate, triggered Lovejoy's runners to start moving and nearly skipped by Hawthorne. But Hawthorne didn't panic, found the ball and flipped it to Ferrill for a tag on Kylee Ramos just in the nick of time to end the inning.

Lovejoy never really threatened again. It went down in order in the sixth and could not convert a leadoff single in the game's final frame.

Hallsville added three runs in its share of the seventh inning to cruise into the state tournament field. Julie Ann Rawls hit a two-run homer to dead center field and Hawthorne followed it up with an RBI double later in the frame.

"This is the best feeling I've ever had," Ferrill said. "It's definitely something I'll remember forever."

The Ladycats came close to the feeling last season. Ennis thwarted the dream with back-to-back regional championship series wins at Bullard Brook Hill and went on to reach the state championship game.

It appeared Lovejoy might have owned the answer as well. It rallied from a 6-0 loss Thursday and a 2-0 deficit Friday to force Game 3 with a 4-2 win.

But it's Hallsville's time.

"It's going to be a great experience," head coach Pat Eitel said just before getting a Gatorade shower. "I've never been there, and I feel fortunate because a lot of coaches never get that far. And kids don't get that far. These kids have done unbelievable work and finally, finally, it paid off. We were a little edgy last year. This year we had it."

The Ladycats will begin state tournament play Friday against a field rounded out by Cedar Park Vista Ridge, Missouri City Ridge Point and reigning state champion Aledo. The pairings will be announced today.

The Class 5A state semifinals will be played at 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. at the University of Texas' Red and Charlene McCombs Field. Semifinal winners will advance to the state championship game, a 1 p.m. first pitch Saturday.

"It really hasn't sunk in yet," Mizell said. "But next week when we get there, I think I'll finally see how big this is. It is so exciting."

Class 5A Region II Championship Series

Game 3 -- At Highland Park High School, University Park
Hallsville 5, Lucas Lovejoy 0

Hallsville          000    200    3    --    5    4    0
Lovejoy            000    000    0    --    0    4    1

Pitchers and catchers
  • Hallsville: Cassidy Ferrill and Emma Hawthorne
  • Lovejoy: Danielle Brochu and Samantha O'Brien

 

  • WP -- Ferrill
  • LP -- Brochu

 

Doubles
  • Hallsville: Bailey Gabriel, Emma Hawthorne

 

Home Runs
  • Hallsville: Hannah Mizell, Julie Ann Rawls