Connect with us


Straughan comes through in another pressure outing as Monterey softball forces Game 3



ABILENE, TX  — Monterey softball coach Brian Cronk tossed and turned Thursday night, and not just because he was sleeping on a hotel-room couch.

Cronk had a monumental decision to make. Who should he call upon to pitch in Friday’s Game 2 with the Lady Plainsmen’s historic season on the line?

Monterey’s usual starter Anays Perez got the ball in the regional semifinal series opener and has been a constant in the circle for the Lady Plainsmen. She was solid in Game 1, save a big inning in which Justin Northwest took the lead.

Brenna Straughan was also an option. The lesser-used pitcher earned the win in the series-clinching game against Abilene Wylie a round earlier.

Having already come through in a pressure situation, Cronk had a feeling the junior right-hander could have a repeat performance.

Turns out he was right.

Straughan had another strong outing, and the Lady Plainsmen defense backed her up, as Monterey beat Northwest 3-1 at Abilene Christian’s Poly Wells Field.

The teams will return at 5:30 p.m. Saturday to decide who will face Aledo in the Region I-5A final.

“It was something that, deep down inside I knew that Brenna was the right choice,” Cronk said. “But I wrestled with it because Anays has been our horse, Anays has been the one we’ve rode. It’s just definitely one of those that the decision is extremely hard to make.

“But we went with Brenna, and Brenna threw a heck of a game.”

Although Cronk’s mind was made up, Straughan said she found out 30 minutes before game time. She focused up and executed her plan. The junior allowed one run on seven hits. She struck out one and walked three.

“It was just another day for me,” Straughan said. “I tuned everybody out except Coach Cronk and Coach V(illegas) and just kind of threw my game, threw like I know how to throw.”

Straughan’s numbers weren’t astounding, but she can thank her defense for helping her take a shutout into the final inning. The Lady Texans stranded five runners in scoring position as Straughan worked out of a few jams.

“I don’t think it’s the best game she’s ever thrown,” Cronk said. “But she threw outs, and at this point that’s all you need. You need 21 outs, and you need more runs on the board than what they got.”

Trailing 2-0, Northwest led the top of the fifth with a single. But the Lady Texans couldn’t turn it into anything on the scoreboard.

Monterey third baseman Tatiana Trotter got a pop out on a failed sacrifice bunt before Straughan issued a walk. Rylee O’Brien made a play in center field and left fielder Ansley Aguilar followed with another grab to leave runners on the corners.

After a two-out double in the sixth, Ava Lopez made a jumping catch in right field that saved a run.

“I have a great defense,” Straughan said. “As long as I’m hitting my spots and they hit the ball, my defense will back me up, no matter what.”

Northwest didn’t break through until consecutive hits in the seventh inning. Sadie Reid’s RBI double off the left-field wall ended the shutout, but Straughan induced a pair of ground outs to seal the win.

Cronk went to talk to his pitcher after the run, but he decided against taking her out.

“We were contemplating making a change,” Cronk said. “When I got out there and looked in her eyes, I knew that she was going to get it done.”

Before that, Claire Decker added some insurance with a leadoff solo home run in the sixth. Her shot over the left-field fence made it 3-0, scoring Monterey’s first run since the third. Makenna Sandoval had an RBI double that frame. Trotter had opened the scoring with a run-scoring triple in the first.

It wasn’t the Lady Plainsmen’s best game, Cronk said, but it was certainly their most important.

And Decker is hoping Saturday isn’t their last.

“I really hope we win because I don’t want my senior year to end,” Decker said. “It’s been a great senior year for us. This is as far Monterey’s ever gone, and it’s just a great year to be a senior.”