Originally published on Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Class 1A State Semifinals
MCCOMBS FIELD IN AUSTIN
• Ivanhoe Rayburn (24-1-1) vs. Petrolia (18-12), 9 a.m.
• Flatonia (28-5) vs. Garrison (25-6-1), noon
Winners play in the Class 1A Final, Thursday, 3 p.m.
Alexandra Bruns and Courtney Mica stand out on the Flatonia softball team for more than their talent.
They also stand out for their longevity with the team.
The middle infielders are the only seniors on a 19-player roster that helped the Lady Bulldogs earn a berth in the 2012 UIL state softball tournament, which opens Wednesday and runs through the weekend.
Although they are in the minority, there is nothing minor about their affect on the team.
"They're basically the heart of the team," said junior third baseman Taylor Williams.
Bruns and Mica look for one final big performance this week when they lead the Lady Bulldogs into McCombs Field in Austin for the Class 1A state tournament.
Flatonia (28-5) takes on Garrison (25-6-1) in the second game of the Class 1A semifinal doubleheader on Wednesday at noon.
"This is our last shot and we're going to do everything we can to bring home that last state title," Bruns said.
Mica, a McLennan Community College signee, has been in the No. 2 spot Flatonia's lineup. She leads the team with a .490 batting average, 50 hits and 55 runs scored. She also shares the team lead with six home runs.
Bruns, the team's cleanup hitter, is hitting .357 with 39 RBIs and 45 runs scored.
Mica and Bruns have shored up the Flatonia middle infield for four years, and Lady Bulldogs coach Rodney Stryk has seen the way they've developed chemistry and work together.
"They know what each other is doing," Stryk said. "It's the best tandem I've ever coached in 13 years and it's one of the best I've seen. At the 1A level. You don't find shortstops and second basemen like that very often."
The Lady Bulldogs were the second seed from a competitive District 28-1A that included 2011 Class 1A champion Shiner and Ganado. Flatonia, which tied with the Maidens for the top spot, opted to take the lower seed.
Mica said that the trip to the state tournament is a way for Flatonia to get some notoriety. She said she noticed that spent much of the season ranked behind district rivals in the coaches poll.
"We beat Shiner, we beat Ganado, and they were still ranked above us, but whatever," Mica said. "We just do our best to do what we do."
Williams, Bruns and sophomore pitcher Katie Steinhauser make up the heart of the Lady Bulldog lineup. Williams has a .458 batting average with 39 RBIs and Steinhauser is hitting .355 with 28 RBIs.
In the circle, Steinhauser's performance has been important to the team's success.
She is 26-5 with a 1.48 ERA and has held opponents to a .169 batting average with 141 strikeouts in 185 innings.
The Lady Bulldogs have made one previous state tournament appearance. That came in 2003 when they beat Windthorst in the state final and won the school's third girls team state title in any sport.
Stryk said he this team is more than capable of winning Flatonia's second state softball title.
"Softball has evolved over the last 10 years and has gotten a lot tougher.," Stryk said. "This team is better than the team that won in 2003. There's no doubt."
The coach remains the only link to the 2003 Class 1A state championship team, the Lady Bulldogs know they can't get caught up in the hype of the state tournament if they want to come home with a title.
"I expect a big crowd, a huge crowd actually," Mica said. "I expect our whole town supporting us, but it's going to be like any other game. (We) just have to go out there, do our best and do what we can do best to win the game."