FORT WORTH — On Thursday night, Pilot Point senior pitcher Skylar Cagle was near the realm of the improbable.
For the second straight playoff series, Cagle was one strike away from a Game 1 no-hitter. A bloop single by Mikayla Smith, who has a broken thumb, spoiled the no-hit bid with two outs in the seventh inning, but Cagle still helped her team move closer to the state tournament.
Cagle tallied a season-high 16 strikeouts in Pilot Point’s 4-0 victory over the Brock Lady Eagles in the Class 2A Region II finals at Saginaw Chisholm Trail. Game 2 of the best-of-three series is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at Chisholm Trail.
“She’s very consistent, like I said in the past,” Pilot Point coach James Ramsey said. “You can always count on her. Like I told the kids, we have to swing the sticks a little bit better.”
The Lady Cats (37-2) swung the sticks well enough to give Cagle the cushion she needed and scratched closer to their second state tournament appearance. The Lady Cats previously reached the state tournament in 2005 while in Class 3A.
Cagle, with glitter and eyeblack streaked down her face, dazzled in the circle in what’s become a common occurrence this season.
After Pilot Point jumped out to an early lead, there wasn’t much Brock (32-11) could do to erase the deficit.
After a leadoff error and a strikeout, Cagle singled in the first inning and Pilot Point had runners on second and third with one out. A pitch that ended up well behind home plate allowed the Lady Cats to take a 1-0 lead.
In the second inning, Pilot Point used two singles and a walk to plate two more runs.
“If you can jump out early, especially when they got in their mind that they’re facing somebody like Skylar, that’s big,” Ramsey said.
The pitcher headed to Northwestern State University said the early lead was soothing for her.
“It’s relieving,” Cagle said. “It really is, when my team can score early. It just gives me more confidence in the circle.”
Pilot Point right fielder Natalie Larson led the team at the plate. She went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Cagle went 2-for-4.
Brock scored 17 runs in two wins over Mount Vernon to earn a matchup against the top team in Class 2A, according to the Texas Girls Coaches Association.
After the game, Brock coach Ryan Starnes gnawed on a straw and said his team struggled more at the plate Thursday than it usually does.
“I knew [Cagle] was good,” Starnes said. “I knew we’d have to have a good approach at the plate. I don’t feel like we did tonight. Hadn’t seen a pitcher like her in a while.”
Brock was without third baseman Sierra Bradshaw. Bradshaw, who bats in the middle of the order for the Lady Eagles, was injured in a car accident Sunday night.
“We had to change some things,” Starnes said. “She’s a good defensive player and a good bat in the lineup and an athlete. We asked some people to step up. We’re not going to make excuses. It was an accident; it happened. It’s unfortunate, but we are fortunate it wasn’t more serious than what it was.”
Brock now finds itself in the same situation it was in its previous series, needing back-to-back wins to keep its season alive. Pilot Point has yet to lose a game in the postseason.
“We couldn’t be more far away [from the state tournament],” Cagle said. “This is a good team. We have to come out tomorrow and get after them.”
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869 and via Twitter at @Ben_Baby.
Pilot Point 4, Brock 0
WP — Skylar Cagle. LP — Krysten Marr. Records — Pilot Point (37-2), Brock (32-11).