Rachel Fox looms large over Lady Flyers semifinal game

May 12, 2010 at 12:12 a.m.

Rachel Fox eats batters for lunch.

In 31 starts and 180 innings this season, the senior pitcher for Sugar Land Fort Bend Baptist struck out 374 batters and threw 31 complete games, with an average of about 12 strikeouts per game. She's shut out 22 opponents.

Last season, she powered the Lady Eagles to the a TAPPS 4A championship and was the Gatorade Texas Player of the Year in softball.

And somehow, some way, the Lady Flyers lineup will have to find a way to get to her. Again.

Fox looms large over Thursday's TAPPS 4A semifinal matchup between Sugar Land Fort Bend Baptist and St. Joseph, a rematch of last years semifinal matchup. She is a superstar of an otherwise nondescript team, and that is something Lady Flyers coach Craig Lauger wants to exploit.

"We want to try to take the game out of the pitcher's hands," he said. "Where it's not just the pitcher's game. We want those other eight players to have to contribute to a win in that game."

Fox, who is heading to Texas after the season, is running an ERA (0.08) that could double for the legal limit for a DWI. Opponents are hitting just .081 against her this season, and the only extra base hit she has allowed was one home run. No doubles and no triples.

But the Lady Flyers have a plan, Lauger said. Their goal: nickel and dime Fox and her teammates into submission.

"Hopefully, we can get some runners on base, try to hit-and-run," he said. "Play as much small ball as we have to and play great defense, and keep it a close game. With their pitcher, it's going to be very difficult to score runs, so we definitely have to hold them to very few runs.

"This is probably the best hitting team I've had, from one through nine. We've had better hitters, but not one through nine. We're going to take our shots at her and see what we get done."

Small ball - bunting, short contact and smart baserunning - is going to be the name of the game for St. Joseph against Fox, something the Lady Flyers have been working on all week, said junior shortstop Fabiola Chinea.

"We've got to get our bunts down and be smart on the bases," she said. "We were practicing pretty hard, especially on third base, yesterday. Pretty much the whole practice."

Sophomore pitcher Holly Parenica said that, although dominant, Fox isn't perfect.

"She throws very hard, she has very good control of a lot of her pitches, and she has a lot of movement, but she's not unhittable," she said. "We can definitely hit her, we can definitely put the ball in play."

Chinea said the team has seen Fox several times before: twice last season, a 4-0 loss in which Fort Bend Baptist held the Lady Flyers to two hits and no runs, and the state semifinal game. St. Joseph also faced her the year before, also a loss.

"We know that swinging hard isn't the key, it's timing," she said. "We're going to focus on that, and if we just stick the bat out there and make contact, the ball is going to go. She's pretty fast."

Added Parenica: "We already know what she is, because we played her so many times last year."

A matchup this February between the two teams was cancelled because of rain.

POSSIBLE REMATCH? Last year, Hallettsville Sacred Hear and Shiner St. Paul, two teams that share a district with one another, squared off in the TAPPS 1A/2A state softball finals, with Sacred Heart picking up the state title.

After a hard-fought district battle that came down to a one game playoff, the two teams could meet again for the state title.

Both schools begin their semifinal games Friday in Waco, with Sacred Heart taking on Wichita Falls Notre Dame, while St. Paul plays Watauga Harvest Christian, the team that knocked Faith Academy out of the playoffs earlier this week.



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