MOUNT PLEASANT — Pilot Point’s offense didn’t supply starting pitcher Skylar Cagle with many insurance runs on Friday night.
But considering the way Cagle pitched, the Lady Cats didn’t need to.
Cagle stymied Commerce’s bats in two games, and Pilot Point swept Commerce in the Class 2A Region II best-of-three semifinal series at Northeast Texas College.
After Cagle pitched a no-hitter in Pilot Point’s 1-0 victory in Game 1 of the series, the Lady Cats held on for the 3-2 victory in Game 2.
The senior signed to Northwestern State University of Louisiana followed up a 13-strikeout performance with nine strikeouts in Game 2.
Pilot Point head coach James Ramsey said for Cagle to pitch two games back to back on a muggy night in East Texas was unbelievable.
“Skylar’s been big for us all year,” Ramsey said. “If we’re going to go down, we were going to go down with her in the circle.
Cagle is now 23-0 on the season and her no-hitter in Game 1 is her third this season.
Pilot Point (36-2) will face either Brock or Mount Vernon in the regional championship next week.
The winner of next week’s contest will land a spot in the state tournament at the University of Texas at Austin from May 29 to June 1.
In the first inning of Game 2, Commerce capitalized on a throwing error and Taite McBee’s bloop single put Commerce ahead 1-0.
Then in the bottom of the third inning, Allison Strittmatter provided the day’s biggest hit and gave Cagle all the runs she needed to pick up the victory.
With a 1-1 pitch count, Strittmatter took a pitch from Commerce freshman pitcher Jordyn Sharp and blasted it over the center field wall for a three-run homer.
The Lady Cats rushed out of their third-base dugout and mobbed Strittmatter at home plate as the Pilot Point fans in highlighter-orange shirts roared in the bleachers behind home plate and along the third-base foul line.
“That was the game right there,” Cagle said of Strittmatter’s home run. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of her. She’s been working so hard and I couldn’t have picked a better person for that to happen to.”
Strittmatter went 2-for-3, while Haley Evans went 2-for-3 with a double to aid Pilot Point’s offense.
But Cagle was the star Friday night.
After the Lady Tigers (27-7) scored a run in the first, Cagle struck out six straight batters before the streak was broken by an infield pop-up.
Commerce, two years removed from a winless district season, made its deepest playoff run in school history, Lady Tigers head coach Jeff Davidson said. Davidson’s belief that his team’s best chance was to hold Pilot Point to a few runs was validated.
However, Davidson admitted Cagle was the best pitcher his team’s faced all season.
“We’re pretty athletic,” Davidson said. “We’ve got a lot of speed. We kind of rely off our short game, our bunting and our quickness. That usually propels us. But you know, we usually hit the ball a little bit better. But that pitcher had a lot to say about how that went.”
Cagle said this series meant a little extra because the regional semifinals is where last season’s 3A playoff run was cut short by Paris North Lamar.
“Every play, every pitch, we just know [the series] could be our last,” Cagle said. “Not many people get second chances, because we were here last year.”
In the bottom of the seventh, Cagle whipped a pitch past Commerce’s Rebekah Cooper for her final strikeout and the series’ final out. Cooper wielded her bat over her head and pounded the dirt near home plate, as Cagle ran toward her dugout.
Before she made it there, she collapsed on third base as emotion and fatigue overwhelmed her. Her teammates surrounded her and helped her back on her feet before the two teams clad in different shades of orange congratulated each other.
Cagle threw a combined total of 191 pitches on Friday evening.
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter @Ben_Baby.
Pilot Point 1, Commerce 0
Pilot Point 000 010 0 — 1 7 1
Commerce 000 000 0 — 0 0 1
WP — Skylar Cagle. LP — Chaney Moreland. 3B — PP: Skylar Cagle, Preslee Galloway.
Pilot Point 3, Commerce 2
Commerce 100 010 0 — 2 3 3
Pilot Point 003 000 x — 3 5 3
WP — Skylar Cagle. LP — Jordyn Sharp . 2B — PP: Haley Evans. HR — PP: Allison Strittmatter.