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Faith Academy falls in title game to St. Paul

By aalvarado
May 12, 2012 at 12:12 a.m.
Updated May 13, 2012 at 12:13 a.m.

Shiner St.Paul's third baseman junior Lizzy Opiela receives congratulations from teammates after getting the TAPPS title match started with a first-inning home run.

BELTON - The Faith Academy softball team made history by reaching the TAPPS state tournament for the first time, but it wasn't easy.

They had to win a road regional game against Waco Vanguard then faced Wichita Falls Norte Dame before facing defending Class 1A/2A champion Shiner St. Paul on consecutive days.

"I don't think anyone expected us to even get past the first round," said sophomore infielder Courtne Grevey. "Making it to state is a great accomplishment and there's nothing to look down about that."

But on Saturday, that luck ran out.

Abby Irvin pitched a complete game one-hit shutout and the Lady Cardinals offense got 12 hits as Shiner St. Paul beat Faith Academy 9-0 in the TAPPS 1A/2A state final at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

"We came farther than anybody else at Faith Academy has and every year we're improving," said junior short stop Kaitlin Ripple. "I'm not really disappointed about the loss, I'm just happy that we made it this far."

The win secured a second consecutive state championship for St. Paul as it finishes the season with a 19-9 record. Faith Academy finishes the season 9-9.

"It's pretty awesome," said St. Paul coach Chris Farias after the win. "I still can't really put it into words."

The Lady Cougars hadn't played at this level before, and it showed immediately.

St. Paul was the road team and junior outfielder Alexa Schaefer led off the game with what looked like a routine bunt, but Tori Sauseda at third couldn't field it and over threw Grevey at first.

The ball went all the way to the right field wall, and Schafer scored on the play.

Mary Adamek added an RBI double and Lizzy Opiela hit a two-run homer to left, putting the Lady Cardinals ahead 4-0 after half an inning.

"You really could not ask for a better way to open up a state championship game," Farias said. "The train was rolling and we just kept going."

Kali Kocian added an RBI double, and Adamek brought another run in the second with a ground out to put St. Paul ahead 7-0.

Faith Academy found its form and held St. Paul to just two runs on six hits the rest of the game.

"If it wasn't for those two innings, we would have been champions today," said Lady Cougars starting pitcher Gabbi Torres.

Although Faith Academy struggled getting a base runner on, there was one missed opportunity that could have turned the game around for the Lady Cougars.

After Jaecy Latta led off the third with a single and Tori reached on an error, the two advanced into scoring position after a ground out by Shelby Brown.

Grevey flied out for the second out of the inning. Torres grounded out to end the Faith Academy threat.

"It would've been a game changer," said Faith Academy coach Chris Sauseda. "That was a huge inning, it was a devastating inning."

Emily Pokluda scored on a balk in the fourth and Victoria Kusac came off the bench to hit an inside-the-park home run in the sixth to cap the scoring.

Irvin struck out eight Lady Cougars and improves her record to 12-6 on the season. Torres allowed eight earned runs on 23 hits and struck out five batters. The loss drops her to 8-8.

Chris said the stats don't reflect the effect Torres has had on the team this season.

"It was just amazing to see the kind of talent this young girl has," the coach said. "I look for big things from her in the future."

The top four batters in the Lacy Cardinals lineup did most of the damage on Saturday.

Schaefer, Kocian, Adamek and Opiela combined to go 9-for-15 with six RBIs and four runs scored.

The game was the final one for Kocian, the lone senior on the Lady Cardinals roster.

"She's such a big role in this team and this program," Farias said.

Tori, Ripple, Grevey and Torres were named to the all-tournament team for Faith Academy while Schaefer, Irwin, Opiela and Kocian made the team from St. Paul.

Even though this was the first trip to state for the Lady Cougars, members of the team are confident that it won't be their last since the nucleus of the team returns next year.

Shelby Brown and Elisha Day are the only two seniors that started on Saturday.

"We're going to get them next year for sure," Tori said. "I have all the faith in the world in my team."

Added Torres: "It gives me a lot of motivation to know that I'm a sophomore and I'm going to come back and win a ring the next two years."

TAPPS 1A/2A Final

Shiner St. Paul 9, Faith Academy 0

St. Paul 430 101 0 - 9 12 4

Faith Academy 000 000 0 - 0 1 3

W: Abby Irvin (12-6); L: Gabbie Torres (8-8)

2B: (St. Paul) Mary Adamek, Bethany Pokluda. 3B: Kali Kocian HR: Lizzy Opiela, Victoria Kusac RECORDS: Faith Academy 9-9; St. Paul 19-6

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