MADISONVILLE — The College Station softball team opened its Class 5A best-of-3 area playoff series against Elgin without leading hitter Brionna Warren because the Texas A&M pledge was feeling a little ill. But by game’s end, it was Elgin’s playoff chances that were hurting.
Texas recruit Hailey Hudson had a trio of hits, including a home run to pick up Warren, who is batting .526. And Hudson was her typical dominating self in the circle in leading the 10th-ranked Lady Cougars to an 8-0 victory Wednesday afternoon at Lady Mustang Field.
Game 2 is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Georgetown.
Hudson came up a double short of the cycle as College Station (28-4-1) breezed through its third straight playoff game. Elgin (20-10), the defending Region III champion, never put pressure on the Lady Cougars. The Lady Wildcats also were short-handed, playing without returning all-state pitcher Gracy Craft, who has a foot injury.
Elgin sophomore pitcher Emma Neidig (9-3) retired the first 16 Pflugerville Weiss batters in a 6-0 bi-district victory last week, but she trailed 2-0 after facing five College Station batters. Senior Kendall Tramel had a single with one out, and junior Hannah Schnettler and freshman Sage Scarmardo both walked to load the bases. Freshman Summer Scarmardo blooped a single down the right-field line to drive in the runs.
Hudson made it 3-0 in the third inning with her fifth homer of the season. She added an RBI triple in a two-run fifth that gave College Station a 6-0 lead.
“She has been struggling a little bit [at the plate],” College Station coach Brandy Gibson said. “Tonight, she came out there with confidence, and she was clutch.”
Hudson went 3 for 4 and looked like her old self in picking up a void left by Warren, who has 17 extra-base hits. Hudson came into the series hitting .333 with 32 RBIs and nine doubles — solid numbers, but last year the all-stater batted .473 with 11 homers, 12 doubles and 46 RBIs.
“I’ve been struggling hitting a lot,” Hudson said. “So I just went up there and I was just ... my mindset was just don’t think, see ball, hit ball and just don’t think about it.”
Hudson’s batting prowess was an added bonus because she had been hit in her left shoulder in her second at-bat in a 9-0 victory over Huntsville in last week’s bi-district opener. She wasn’t in the batting order for Game 2 against Huntsville but took over as the designated player late in the 9-1 victory, drawing a walk and striking out in two at-bats.
“When I first got hit, I was pretty concerned about it,” Hudson said. “I really couldn’t move my shoulder. The next day, I could move it more and realized it was just going to be a bad bruise.”
Thanks to a series of stretching exercises with the team trainer and many ice bags, Hudson said her shoulder has felt a little better each day.
Hudson’s right shoulder was in tip-top shape as the right-hander picked up her 14th shutout in the circle. Hudson (26-4) struck out seven and walked one.
Elgin’s lone scoring threat came in the second inning. Senior Kaylee Berdoll reached on an error. Hudson made maybe her worst throw of the game with one out, short-hopping a throw to second base on a sacrifice bunt for an error, but the runners stayed put as Hudson retired the next two batters.
“Elgin is a good team. We were prepared for them,” said Hudson, who issued her lone walk in the first. “The first inning I was kind of seeing what they could do. Then once I figured that out, I was going right at them.”
Hudson retired 12 straight until Berdoll hit a line-drive single to open the seventh, but Hudson quietly retired the next three batters, getting the final out on her 100th pitch.
Hudson had plenty of support at the plate as College Station had 12 hits. Tramel went 3 for 3 with three stolen bases and a walk. Jessica Carreon and Summer Scarmardo each had two hits as Warren missing her first game of the season proved no problem.
“We have confidence in everybody in the dugout,” Gibson said. “You always kind of wonder what the chemistry is going to be like when you are missing such an important player. But we’ve had kids come through in the clutch all season long. We did that again tonight. It was great.”
NOTES — The series had been scheduled for Brenham but was moved because of the threat of rain. A few raindrops fell in the fifth inning but no more. The game was the second of three games Wednesday at Madisonville’s artificial turf softball field. The other games were China Spring vs. Hudson and Leon vs. Groveton. Madisonville spent $400,000 on the field in December 2015. The school’s turf baseball field cost $800,000.
College Station 8, Elgin 0
Elgin 000 000 0 — 0 2 2
College Station 201 122 x — 8 12 2
Emma Neidig, Kaylee Berdoll (4) and Morgan Heine. Hailey Hudson and Grace Davis.
W — Hudson (26-4). L — Neidig (9-3).
Leading hitters: ELGIN (20-10) — Kelsea Calhoun 1-2. COLLEGE STATION (28-4-1) — Hudson 3-4, HR (5), 3B, 2 RBIs; Kendall Tramel 3-3, 3 SBs; Jessica Carreon 2-3; Summer Scarmardo 2-4, 2 RBIs; Cami Winder 1-3, 2 RBIs.