Guyer has grown accustomed to playing in winner-take-all playoff games over the last two seasons.

The Lady Wildcats, who went three rounds deep in the postseason, played in one-game playoffs against Hebron, Duncanville and Wylie last year. Their postseason run will start in similar fashion this year, as Guyer opens with its back against the wall this weekend.

The Lady Wildcats, ranked 10th in Class 6A in the Dallas-Fort Worth area by The Dallas Morning News, will play No. 9 Flower Mound Marcus at 7 p.m. Thursday at Marcus.

Guyer and Aubrey are the only Denton-area teams that will compete in one-game playoffs this weekend. Denton, Ryan, Pilot Point, Argyle and Krum will play best-of-three series in the first round.

“There’s a little more pressure, obviously,” Guyer coach Keith Medford said. “We learned a lot about that last year. But there’s two ways to look at it — you’re [also] a lot more relaxed in a three-game series. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, because you want your kids competitive throughout the game.

“We’re trying to win every single game we play, so it’s not a foreign thing where it’s like all of the sudden we’re really trying to win this one. I really don’t think they’ll feel too much pressure. Their job isn’t to play perfect — it’s just to play their tails off and see what happens.”

The Lady Wildcats enter the postseason as the No. 3 seed out of District 5-6A, finishing behind Keller and Haslet Eaton — the top two teams in the DMN rankings. Guyer defeated Trophy Club Nelson and Keller Fossil Ridge to close the regular season and gave both Eaton and Keller a scare late in the year.

Guyer has won seven of its last nine games, while Marcus (21-9) won 10 of its last 12. The Lady Marauders finished second in District 6-6A behind No. 7 Flower Mound.

“I feel like our teams are pretty similar,” Medford said. “They have some kids who can hit for power, they’re fundamentally sound and they’re a tradition-rich program. The kids are super excited — this is something they’ve been working tirelessly to prepare for over the last eight weeks, and longer than that really.”

Medford said he expects to see both of Marcus’ premier pitchers in Thursday’s game, as the Lady Marauders have utilized Haley Herzig and Lexi Benson in key games throughout the year. Offensively, Marcus boasts an explosive lineup with several home run threats, including Benson, Maddie Johnson, Mikaila Kenney and Brooke Lawson.

Morgan Medford will lead the way for Guyer, hitting .495 with 28 RBIs and 43 runs. Kara DeBruin, who holds the Lady Wildcats’ career home run record (12), is hitting .459 with 35 RBIs and five home runs. Eva Myers (.439, 20 RBIs, 33 runs), Abby Willis (.373, 23 RBIs) and Ryan Gallegos (.329, 21 RBIs, 21 runs) are also among Guyer’s leaders.

The Lady Wildcats will rely heavily upon sophomore pitcher Ranci Willis, who is 18-6 with a 4.69 ERA and 129 strikeouts in her first season at Guyer. She’ll look to help the team advance out of the first round for the second straight year.

“There’s no secret about that,” Medford said. “We’ve ridden Ranci in the circle all year — she’s been the horse for us. I think she’s done remarkably well as a sophomore in an incredibly difficult district, and not many kids can do that. It’s going to be fun to see how she responds to a 6A playoff game.”

The winner will advance to play Mansfield Lake Ridge or Dallas Molina in the area round.

Denton looking for first playoff series win under Stephenson

Maggie Stephenson has taken Denton to new heights in her two years with the program, leading the Lady Broncos to their only two playoff appearances since 2002. Now, Denton (18-11, 7-5 District 8-5A) is looking to accomplish its latest milestone and advance out of the first round.

Denton, the No. 3 seed out of a tough District 8-5A, will face Azle in a best-of-three series beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday at Justin Northwest. Game 2 is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Northwest with Game 3, if necessary, at noon Saturday at Northwest.

While Azle is a stout opponent with a 17-13 record, Denton faced two of the top teams in the state in Little Elm and The Colony twice this season. Despite not getting a win in those games, Stephenson saw her team battle and grow while preparing for the Class 5A playoffs.

“Our district play has prepared us very well for the postseason,” Stephenson said. “A lot of the confidence we have going into Round 1 comes from the district we compete in.”

While the experience of last year’s playoff appearance will help the returners, Denton top two pitchers will be getting their first taste of playoff softball. Freshmen Ashtani McDade and Brooklyn Morris also lead the team at the plate, as both are hitting above .450.

Stephenson rested McDade for the final week of the regular season.

“This is why we work all year long — to play in this game on Thursday,” Stephenson said. “Our kids couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity, and they’re ready.”

— Contributing writer Matthew Brune

Lady Raiders await familiar first-round opponent

When Ryan hitters dig in at the plate in Thursday’s 5A playoff opener, they’ll have a familiar pitcher staring back at them.

Saginaw Boswell ace Julie Kennedy, who was in the circle two years ago when Ryan eliminated Boswell in a first-round series that went the distance, leads a Lady Pioneer team that has lost just five games all year and will be out for a bit of revenge.

Game 1 of the best-of-three series is slated for 7 p.m. at Boswell. Game 2 is set for 5 p.m. Friday at Tina Minke Field. If necessary, Game 3 will immediately follow.

“I’m excited about the way we are playing,” Ryan coach Matt Buettner said. “We are hitting a little bit of a groove where we are starting to play up to our capabilities and getting better each day.

“Julie is a lot better now in terms of her control and velocity, and she’s formidable.”

Buettner, whose team finished fourth in 8-5A after winning a district title and advancing three rounds deep last year, said he feels more confident than ever that his team is prepared for Kennedy. Ryan closed the season with a 14-4 win over Braswell and a 10-4 win over Lake Dallas. In between that was a 6-5 loss to Little Elm pitcher Lauren Lucas, arguably one of the top pitchers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Ryan junior Abby Buettner, a Maryland commit, is batting .623 with eight home runs and 63 RBIs. Harper Hughes is batting .500 with 22 RBIs and 35 stolen bases. Katie Baeumler and Savanna Phillips are batting at or above .400.

“The trick will be if we can match up in a three-game series,” Matt Buettner said. “Their offense is really good too.”

Contributing writer Steve Gamel

Argyle vs. Godley

Format: best-of-three

Schedule: Game 1, 7 p.m. Thursday at Fort Worth Brewer; Game 2, 7 p.m. Friday at Brewer; Game 3, if necessary, 2 p.m. Saturday at Brewer

Records: Argyle (10-21-1, 5-3 district), Godley (16-7-1, 5-3)

Seeding: Argyle (No. 3, District 8-4A), Godley (No. 2, 7-4A)

Matchup: Argyle finished in a tie with Krum for the No. 2 seed out of District 8-4A, but the Lady Eagles decided to take the third spot to set up a series against Godley. Argyle played one of the Denton area’s toughest nondistrict schedules, so its record is a bit deceiving. Abby Williams, Hailey Clark and Lanie Rodgers are among the players who will play a key role in the Lady Eagles’ chances as the team looks for its third straight bi-district win.

Krum vs. Glen Rose

Format: best-of-three

Schedule: Game 1, 7 p.m. Thursday at Krum; Game 2, 11 a.m. Saturday at Glen Rose; Game 3, if necessary, 30 minutes later

Records: Krum (17-3-1, 5-3), Glen Rose (18-12-1, 4-4)

Seeding: Krum (No. 2, 8-4A), Glen Rose (No. 3, 7-4A)

Matchup: Argyle decided to take its chances against Godley as the No. 3 seed, but there doesn’t appear to be much separation between Glen Rose and Godley out of District 7-4A. Glen Rose defeated Godley 10-9 in eight innings on April 2 before Godley got revenge 10-9 on April 18. Krum will rely on Lindsay Hill, Lindsay Beutnagel, Jayce Bolin and Kennedy Brooks, among others, to pick up the program’s first playoff series win under first-year coach Tiffany Brown.

Pilot Point vs. Bonham

Format: best-of-three

Schedule: Game 1, 7 p.m. Thursday at Pilot Point; Game 2, 7 p.m. Friday at Bonham; Game 3, if necessary, 7 p.m. Saturday at site to be determined by coin flip

Records: Pilot Point (16-13, 9-3), Bonham (25-5, 8-4)

Seeding: Pilot Point (No. 2, 9-3A), Bonham (No. 3, 10-3A)

Matchup: Pilot Point will have its hands full, as Bonham is not a typical No. 3 seed. The Lady Warriors dropped down from Class 4A after advancing to the third round of the playoffs last season, and they enter the series having won 25 games. Pilot Point played a brutal schedule early in the season and took awhile to get going, but the Lady Bearcats have the talent — especially with Christine Billmeier in the circle — to advance.

Aubrey vs. Dallas Pinkston

Format: one game

Schedule: 7 p.m. Friday at Frisco Lebanon Trail

Records: Aubrey (21-1-2, 10-0), Dallas Pinkston (5-5 district)

Seeding: Aubrey (No. 1, 12-4A), Dallas Pinkston (No. 4, 13-4A)

Matchup: Aubrey enters the postseason having dominated its opponents from start to finish this season. The Lady Chaparrals’ only loss came in a tournament to Eastland on Feb. 22, and Aubrey has won its last four games by a total of 51 runs.

BRADY KEANE can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @BradyKeane.

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