PLANO — Aubrey senior Kaley Reding saw her three previous trips to the playoffs cut short in the first two rounds.
The hurler made sure she and her seven fellow seniors didn’t suffer the same fate Saturday, delivering another dominating performance to lead the Lady Chaps to a sweep of Ferris in a Class 3A Region II area-round series.
Reding struck out 11 and held Ferris to four hits in a 6-2 victory at John Paul II High School to advance to the regional quarterfinals.
“There are so many emotions going through my mind,” Reding said. “I’m just completely excited to get past this point. We’re finally going on to the third round.”
Aubrey (26-8) will meet Sanger, which knocked off Nevada Community on Saturday, in the region quarterfinals. No time or location had been set for the matchup.
Aubrey will be in the third round for the first time since 2008, when it made the regional final.
“With this group, it’s the furthest they have been,” Aubrey coach Shon Ranton said. “At the start of the season, we talked about realistic goals. This is the goal we set.”
Reding’s work in the circle played a pivotal role in getting there. After eight shutout innings in the sweep of Decatur in the bi-district round, the senior struck out 11 in a Friday shutout of Ferris (18-14). She extended her scoreless streak to 18 innings with the first two innings Saturday, including four straight strikeouts to start the game.
“All week, I worked on pitches I’ve thrown in previous years,” she said. “Wednesday at my pitching practice, everything felt good. I knew it was going to be a good week.”
Despite two perfect innings to start the game, Ranton expected to see more from her.
“She was not throwing as hard as last night,” he said. “After they got a couple of hits and runs, she buckled down and turned it on.”
Ferris broke Reding’s scoreless string in the top of the third on a one-out single by Leah Yarborough. Ferris took a 2-0 lead after a bunt and a two-out single to center by Sam Jones.
Reding gave up one more hit to Carley Jo Hartis before ending the inning with a strikeout. She allowed only one more hit over the final four innings.
“She had a really good rise ball that was giving us problems,” Ferris coach JJ Eusay said. “We got to her that one inning and got some hits together on her. But she’s a senior and has a lot of experience, and she held in there and battled. We had a lot of problems with her rise ball, and once she started throwing the changeup for strikes we had problems there. She’s a really good pitcher.”
Aubrey couldn’t take advantage of early chances, stranding four on base in the first two innings. After Ferris plated its two runs in the third, Aubrey responded with a run off a single by Kayla Sullivan and two errors.
Aubrey couldn’t push across another run despite having runners at first and second with no one out.
The Lady Chaps made up for their missed opportunities in the bottom of the fourth. Erin DeLaSantos led off with a single. With one out, Melanie Funk brought her home with a drive over the left fielder’s head for a game-tying triple.
“The at-bat before, I had a chance to drive in a run and grounded out to the pitcher,” Funk said. “I told myself, ‘I have to get the run in this time. This is my turn.’ I did what I was taught, got the hit and brought the run in.”
Sullivan sent Funk home with a sacrifice bunt to give Aubrey a 3-2 lead.
It was one of three bunts the Lady Chaps got down in the game.
“Putting the bunt down was huge for us,” Ranton said. “We did an excellent job with the small game.”
The Lady Chaps added three insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth, including Haley Bottorff’s RBI triple to the right-field fence.
Reding got a strikeout and a couple of pop-ups to DeLaSantos at second base to end the game and series.