Clifton Lady Cubs sweep Maypearl to claim third place in District 17-3A, advance to the playoffs to face Corsicana Mildred in a best-of-three game Bi-District series at Itasca Athletic Complex
After wrapping up the 2023 Texas high school softball regular season with a dominating sweep of District 17-3A opponent Maypearl last week, the Clifton Lady Cub softball team turns its attention to the postseason.
Entering the playoffs as District 17-3A’s third-place team, the Lady Cubs (6-4 in district, 16-13 overall) will matchup with District 18-3A runner-up Corsicana Mildred (8-2 in district, 18-6) in a best-of-three game series played at the Itasca Athletic Complex this week. Game One will be played at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by Game Two at 6 p.m. Friday. If necessary, Game Three will be played at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“The girls have improved each week from day one of the season,” Clifton softball head coach Tim Vannatta said . “We have really come together as a team the last few weeks, and we expect to take care of business this week against Mildred.”
Other Bi-District playoff matchups from District 17-3A feature top-ranked and district champion Grandview (31-1) facing Eustace (11-18), district runner-up West (16-15-1) battling Blooming Grove (15-16-2), and Whitney (9-11) taking on 13th-ranked and undefeated District 18-3A champion Malakoff (22-4-1).
“Our ladies show up expecting to play well,” Vannatta said. “They no longer hope to play a solid mistake free game, they compete. That is a foundation we can build on this year and for years to come. So come out and support your team, they are a fun bunch to watch.”
Prior to the playoffs and weather permitting, the Lady Cubs a warm-up game at home Tuesday, but fell to Class 2A’s 11th-ranked Riesel (28-3), 16-3, as the Lady Indians finished behind the District 13-2A runner-up behind top-ranked and defending state champion Crawford (26-2) after beating out third place Valley Mills and fourth place Bosqueville.
Leaving no doubt about their place as one of the top four teams in District 17-3A, the Lady Cubs closed out the regular season with a dominating two-game series sweep of Maypearl (2-8, 7-16) last week, clinching a playoff berth with an 18-8 run-rule win April 14 before crushing the Lady Panthers, 16-1, in the season finale last Tuesday.
“I was very proud of how our ladies came out to play against Maypearl,” Vannatta said. “We played with aggression from the start. There was no fear in their eyes.”
Overwhelming Maypearl last Tuesday, Clifton sent 17 batters come to the plate in the top of the first inning and scored 12 runs. Maypearl responded with a single run in the bottom of the first, but the Lady Cubs shut down the Lady Panthers after that while continuing to pile on the runs to end the game with a 15-run lead after three innings.
In the first game of the series, the Lady Cubs jumped out to an early 6-3 lead, but Maypearl rallied for four runs on the top of the fourth inning. With Lady Panthers leading my a run, Clifton’s Laylah Gaona smashed the first of her two three-run home runs to put the Lady Cubs on right back on top in the bottom of the fourth.
“Laylah lifted us with her with her first three-run shot,” Vannatta said. “After she hit the second homer, we just took off from there.”
In addition to Gaona’s six-RBI game, the Lady Cubs were led at the plate by Sydney Fullerton going three for four, Kelsey Wetegrove going two for four, Kambrie Ketter reaching base and scoring three times, and Addison Martin knocking in four runs with a double and a home run.
With the win, Clifton clinched third place in District 17-3A and secured a playoff berth, behind the state’s top-ranked Grandview and second place West, while finishing ahead of fourth place and playoff-bound Whitney.
Under the direction of a new head coach and a different style of play, the Clifton softball program began the season as diamonds in the rough on a learning curve.
Going into the playoff-clinching wins over Maypearl, the Lady Cubs saw their four-game winning streak snapped with back-to-back losses to the West Lady Trojans, 10-0, on the road April 4, and ,13-1, at home coming off the Easter weekend April 11.
In the first of a two-game set April 4, Clifton fell behind early, giving up five runs in the first inning and four more in the second. The Lady Trojans hit the ball hard as seven of their runs came off of home runs.
The Lady Cubs came out battling in the second game against West, and trailed 5-1 after four innings. But in the top of the fifth, the Lady Trojans put their first three batters on base before crushing a grand slam, followed by an RBI double, a two-run homer, and a solo shot to cap off an eight-run inning.
In the meantime, Whitney swept Maypearl, slipping by the Lady Panthers, 6-5, on the road before posting a dominating 18-3 win at home to put Clifton on the verge of a postseason berth.
“I’m super proud of these ladies,” Vannatta said. “The girls have done a great job of improving each day on the field. And most importantly, we are getting better with every game we play.”
Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS
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