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HOUSTON – This was the kind of game that Deer Park needed.
Amy Vidal knew her teams’ psyche had been affected in the last two playoff series, both being best-of-three, which the Deer had lost the openers in and had to fight back and win back-to-back games to advance.
Heading into the Region III-6A Semifinal facing Seven Lakes, there was no room for mistake. A stumble in game one, there was no game two and three to make a comeback.
“It forced us to make us to do something that was uncomfortable, and I think we responded well to it,” Vidal said.
Emma Overla, Lorelei Graham and Lindsey McKnight homered, Reanna Nieman and Madison Applebe combined to throw a no-hitter and Deer Park rolled past Seven Lakes 10-0 in the Region III-6A Semifinals at Summer Creek on Friday night.
The win advances Deer Park to the Region III-6A Championship for a second-straight season and moves their record to 38-4 overall.
“After those three-game series where we didn’t do well in the first game, playing in this first game well was a statement to everybody in the playoffs right now,” Graham said. “We’re a force to be reckoned with.”
The Deer struck first with RBI infield singles in the second and third inning to take a 2-0 lead. Deer Park made it 4-0 off Overla’s homer in the fourth inning.
BOOM 💥: @DeerPark_SB gets the big swing from Emma Overla (@emmabrooke_5) as the @ETBU_Softball commit crushes a 2-run bomb to left and it is 4-0 Deer middle 4th inning. #txhssoftball @DPISD @KPRC2RandyMc @KPRC2Chancellor @MadisonApplebe @erinperez_ @MaddyBailey32 @KaylaZaid1 pic.twitter.com/xDeDTR9lCc— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) May 21, 2022
While the Deer Park bats were providing the offense, Nieman was shutting down and shutting out Seven Lakes, which was in its first Regional Semifinal since 2016. Once Nieman’s night was done Applebe came in and slammed the door with a final couple of flawless innings.
The Deer Park one-two punch no-hit and shutout a team that hadn’t been since April 1 and had manufactured 32 runs in eight playoff games.
“I feel like teamwork is the dreamwork,” Nieman said. “I couldn’t ask for anyone better to come in behind me and perform how she did.”
Vidal added: “They responded to the call. We had to change some things up a little bit because we feel like everyone is expecting one or the other. I think they have handled everything I’ve asked and have handled it well.”
Region III-6A 🥎 Semifinal Update: @UCF_Softball commit @MadisonApplebe with a swinging K to end the 6th … @DeerPark_SB up 9-0 on Seven Lakes heading to the 7th. @CoachBallMalone @UCFKnights @KPRC2RandyMc @erinperez_ @KaylaZaid1 @dpisdathletics @emmabrooke_5 @KPRC2Ari pic.twitter.com/TYv6iRttLl— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) May 21, 2022
For Deer Park offensively, the 10 runs marked the fourth time these playoffs that the Deer have scored in double digits.
Now, Deer Park awaits the winner of the Katy-Pearland series, which is set to conclude on Saturday. The Deer know they have another “big series to win” before they even start talking about returning to the UIL State Softball Tournament.
The reining Class 6A State Champions checked off a few boxes on Friday night, the biggest besides getting back to the Regional Championship – winning a one-game series.
“We had preached all year long that at some point you have to win one game,” Vidal said. “I think it was for our kids. It was good all around.”
WOW!!! @DeerPark_SB left fielder Loreli Graham with an AMAZING diving catch to secure second out of the 3rd! #txhssoftball @dpisdathletics @KPRC2RandyMc @MaxPreps @SCNext @KPRC2Ari @KPRC2Chancellor @KaylaZaid1 @MadisonApplebe @HTownHSS @ESPNAssignDesk @espn @erinperez_ @DPISD pic.twitter.com/DeJDBltu7B— VYPE Houston (@vypehouston) May 21, 2022
STANDING ON THE EDGE OF THE DUGOUT AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS’ RED & CHARLIE MCCOMBS FIELD ON A WARM JUNE NIGHT WAS MADISON APPLEBE.
The then-junior watched as the final pitch from Deer Park starter Hannah Benavides was popped into the air and reeled in by Tabby Bailey in centerfield to seal a 1-0 win over Converse Judson for the Class 6A State Championship.
Before the ball was even caught, Applebe and the rest of her team had already started pouring out of the dugout onto an eventual dogpile at midfield.
“It was unreal because nobody thought we could do it,” she said. “So, when it happened, we were just like ‘we did it’.”
Now, the University of Central Florida-commit is back for her senior year and as the savvy veteran of the staff. But her job is more than about just getting a new number in the win column every night.
“I think my job is not to just get us wins but is to teach the other three pitchers on the staff,” Applebe said. “Teach them how to carry themselves and shake things off.”
Last year’s title for Deer Park was its third in program history but first since 2014. Now, the Lady Deer will try and build off what they accomplished as a group in 2021 and hope they have laid the foundation for years to come.
“We changed the culture and that represents how we all came together and did it ourselves,” Applebe said about last season. “We all played for each other