BULLARD -- In a playoff matchup that featured two teams that made trips to the state softball tournament last year, Mineola is now a little closer to returning.

Mineola's Ali Galaz slid under the tag of Henderson catcher Jessica Thomas on a suicide squeeze play in the bottom of the ninth to help the Lady Jackets knock off No. 6 Henderson 3-2 and take the best-of-three series at Brook Hill Ballpark on Saturday.

Mineola (26-8) advanced to the regional semifinals for the third consecutive year and will face Lone Star at a time and place to be determined.

Galaz singled to start the ninth, moved to second on a sac bunt by Manda Wilmoth and moved to third on a passed ball. Then, freshman Kassy Skinner stepped up and laid down a textbook bunt.

"I thought, 'I have to lay this down.' This is for our team and for our season," Skinner said.

Henderson's Kamryn McCaw takes a swing against Mineola during their Class 3A regional quarterfinal playoff series Saturday in Bullard. (Noreen Nartia, ETSN.fm)

Henderson pitcher Tiarra Davis scooped the ball and tossed it under-handed to Thomas, but it was too late. Galaz slid under the junior's tag and the Lady Jackets' crowd erupted.

"They know when I call for a bunt, they'll lay it down," said Mineola coach Jana Nance. "So, I didn't have any doubt. I had my best runner on third, and state (UIL state tournament in Austin) just came into my head. (Skinner) laid down a perfect bunt. With runners on first and third, it was the perfect opportunity to do that with my leadoff hitter coming up. So it didn't hurt to try."

Davis led off the bottom of the first with a solo home run, giving Henderson (27-10) the early lead, 1-0. The Texas-bound lefty added a double and two runs scored. In the circle, she went the distance, giving up three runs (one earned) on five hits, and notched a game-high nine strikeouts.

"Our defense was freaking awesome today," Nance said. "(Davis) started bringing some heat, and we started to relax. We've been working on this for two weeks, and we just came together."

Mineola pitcher Rikkilyn Hass delivers against Henderson during their Class 3A regional quarterfinal playoff series Saturday in Bullard. (Noreen Nartia, ETSN.fm)

Mineola answered in the fourth when Wilmoth delivered a two-out, two-run single, scoring Galaz and Sister Green.

Mineola's Rikkilyn Hass pitched the complete-game victory. She went nine innings, giving up two runs on five hits. She pitched every inning of the series and said she knows her teammates rely on her.

"It makes me feel like it's my team and my job to come out with a win," Hass said. "If things go wrong, I take a lot of the blame because I feel like I'm the one they rely on. With my teammates behind me, there's no excuse for us not to win."

In an elimination game earlier in the day, Mineola needed a comeback to extend the series, defeating Henderson 7-4 behind the bats of Marisa Ledkins and Wilmoth, and a defense flashing plenty of leather.

After spotting Henderson three first-inning runs -- all from a Thomas home run -- the Lady Jackets plated four runs in the following inning.

Galaz drove in the first run on a double, scoring Green. Then, Mineola pulled off the double steal with Galaz taking home plate. After a Skinner run-scoring single tied it at 3-3, shortstop Brittney Johnson knocked in Maddie Wood to take the 4-3 advantage.

Mineola added insurance runs in the sixth from RBI singles by Johnson and Ledkins, and Galaz added the final run, scoring on a passed ball in the seventh.

Nance reflected on the foundation being built at Mineola and throughout the community.

"We have a lot of little girls that look up to our girls," Nance said. "If you look on the side of their cleats, you'll see names of people they are playing for. We are playing for everybody out there. We're playing for family, friends, grandparents, everybody. It's for more than just us."

Henderson coach Kristin Lacy said she was proud of her team in defeat.

"These girls are heart to heart. That's our motto," Lacy said. "They play every ounce with their hearts and their ability. They laid it all out there. Every at-bat, every pitch. We never gave up, we never backed down. Today, it went Mineola's way. Tomorrow, it would go our way. It just happened to be that today counted. It's a heartbreaker. My girls are a class act."


Mineola 7, Henderson 4

Class 3A Region II Quarterfinals
(Best-of-three series)

Game 2
Brook Hill Ballpark, Bullard

Mineola            040    002    1    --    7   11    0
Henderson       301    000    0    --     4    7    2

Mineola: Rikkilyn Hass and Morgan Catron. Henderson: Kamryn McCaw, Tiarra Davis and Jessica Thomas.

WP -- Hass.
LP -- Davis.

2B -- Mineola: Catron, Galaz.
3B -- Henderson: Davis.
HR -- Henderson: Thomas (first inning, two on).


Mineola 3, Henderson 2, 9 innings

Game 3

Henderson       101    000    000    --    2    5    1
Mineola            000    200    001    --    3    5    5

Mineola: Hass and Morgan Catron. Henderson: Davis and Thomas.

WP -- Hass.
LP -- Davis.

2B -- Henderson: Davis.
HR -- Henderson: Davis (first, solo).

Records -- Mineola: 26-8. Henderson: 27-10.

A Mineola softball fan cheers the Lady Jackets on during their Class 3A regional quarterfinal playoff series against Henderson on Saturday in Bullard. (Noreen Nartia, ETSN.fm)