UIL State Softball: Benavides tosses shutout, Deer Park wins third state championship

UIL State Softball: Benavides tosses shutout, Deer Park wins third state championship (Copyright (c) 2021 VYPE - All rights reserved)

AUSTIN - Amy Vidal-Bush likes an underdog.

For her, senior pitcher Hannah Benavides is that underdog. The pitcher, who doesn't even hit 5-feet on the height scale, does things that pitchers her size don't usually do.

One of those is tossing back-to-back shutouts in the Class 6A State Semifinals and championship game to clinch Deer Park's third state championship with a 1-0 victory over Converse Judson on Saturday night.

"You don't have a lot of pitchers that throw back-to-back shutouts that are not five foot," Vidal-Bush said. "I think she's probably 4-10 and so she doesn't have the torque. She's not supposed to be able to throw the ball hard or make it bend. It's just work ethic. She works so hard. There's a point at least once a week I have to tell her, we've got to lay off a little bit.

"If it were up to her she'd pitch every single night, throw a full bullpen, throw to live batters because she wants to win."

In the Class 6A State Championship game, Benavides tossed a complete-game shutout, allowing six hits, walking two, and striking out six on 109 pitches.

As the senior ace, who is signed to Abilene Christian University, stood on the field she hugged her MVP plaque tightly to her body with both arms not letting go of this moment.

"This to me means a lot," Benavides said about the MVP award. "I've not had the best high school experience. Coach Vidal really turned this season around and she gave me the chance. I couldn't ask for anything more."

Deer Park finishes the season 40-8 overall in Vidal-Bush's first season at the helm of the program. It is the third title for the Lady Deer joining the 2012 and 2014 teams to do so.

"I took this job because I knew there would be an opportunity to win a state championship," Vidal-Bush said. "That's what this school is. I have the support of the administration and the community is crazy. But I didn't think it would happen in one year. I thought it would take a couple of years. This is just icing on the cake."

This marks the second-straight season that Houston has won the Class 4A (Liberty 10-3 over Calallen), Class 5A (Barbers Hill 4-1 over Aledo), and the Class 6A State Championships. In 2019 it was Huffman, Angleton, and Katy.

For Vidal-Bush when she took over the program, the girls didn't touch a softball for the first eight weeks of the school year. She ran her team, they lifted, she wanted them to be tough.

Tough was enough to win it all.

"I believe tough kids are great kids and they learn how to win," Vidal-Bush said. "So, at some point, you have to teach a kid how to be tough. All of the kids in the program are great softball players but the difference between the good ones and the really great ones is that they're just tough.

"These kids had to learn how to be tough, we had some rough days, but I think they'd say they'd do it all over again for this."

Deer Park had to show their toughness against Converse Judson (35-3), which was making its first-ever UIL State Softball Tournament appearance.

In a scoreless bout, Deer Park in the sixth inning finally broke through as Erin Perez singled up the middle driving in Reanna Nieman, making it 1-0, which would be enough.

Judson would threaten in their final at-bats with the tying run on first and winning run at the plate but Benavides got a pair of flyouts to centerfield where Tabby Bailey squeezed the final outs to clinch the state title.

"I knew [that was it]," Benavides said. "It was not as far as some of the other ones. I think we stuck to the gameplan well tonight."