It was a somber scene as Ryan players perched in the left field grass on Friday, attentive to coach Matt Buettner as he gave one last postgame speech after his team’s 12-1 loss to Aledo.
They looked on postgame when the Ladycats lifted a trophy for advancing out of the 5A Region I bi-district round after completing a 2-0 series sweep at Tina Minke Field. When it was all said and done, the Ryan players came together in a circle and chanted “1-2-3 Raiders!” for the final time this season.
“I told ‘em I love ‘em,” Buettner said. “I’m proud of them. They earned every bit of getting into the playoffs. We took a moment to look at the trophy presentation and celebration as a reminder to a few who have seen it before, to talk about what drives us into next year.”
Runs often came in pairs for Aledo as it began the game by scoring a pair in the top of the first inning on an RBI single by first baseman Texas Ray and a sacrifice fly by designated player Claire Byars. Aledo would tack on two more in the second on an RBI double by center fielder Marissa Powell and another RBI single by Ray.
Ray, a University of Tulsa commit, finished the day 4-for-4 with four RBIs on three singles and a double. Leadoff hitter Macy Graf combined with Powell and Ray to drive in six of the team’s 11 runs as the top of the order came up with consistent production.
“They have a great approach at the plate and don’t take many swings at balls out of the zone,” said Buettner of the Aledo hitters. “They’re a tough, tough lineup.
“When your nine-hole is going to play at Mississippi State, you’re pretty good through the lineup. They have a chance to make a really deep run.”
A scoreless, hitless third inning both ways led to the Ladycats plating two more runs in the top of the fourth on RBI doubles by Graf and Ray. There would be no more scoring until the bottom of the fifth when Ryan scraped across its lone run. It came after a pair of two-out walks brought up Ryan senior right fielder Alexa Almejo, who poked a pitch into the outfield to score a runner from second.
Aledo (26-2) would tack on its final six runs in the top of the sixth inning, scoring on four RBI singles. Two more runs scored on an error.
Ladycats pitcher Nathalie Touchet’s strong outing was a key part of the six-inning, run-rule victory. The University of Missouri commit fanned eight batters while allowing just three hits and one run as she went the distance.
“I think we battled hard, and we definitely had good energy,” senior first baseman Haleigh Robinson said. “[Touchet] had some speed to her for sure. We could have made some more adjustments at the plate.”
Falling to the No. 8-ranked team in all of class 5A brought the Raiders’ (15-13-2) up-and-down season to a close. Buettner saw plenty of positives to take away in his team’s growth from recording just two wins a season ago.
“It was a little bit of a rollercoaster. There were times where we were really good, there were times where we really struggled,” Buettner said. “This game is great because it teaches life lessons. We hope they carry that with them, not just in the sport but in life of how we rebound, how we handle failure and how we care about our teammates.”