Atascocita downs Kingwood 5-2 to split season series, Pickering, Kelso homer

Atascocita downs Kingwood 5-2 to split season series, Pickering, Kelso homer (Copyright (c) 2022 VYPE - All rights reserved)

HOUSTON - Ashley Boyd will admit that her team is different now than it was just a few weeks ago when it first Kingwood.

Now, the Atascocita coach sees her team not trying to play "hero" at the plate but instead "pass the bat to the next person."

"That's what we were missing the first half of the year," Boyd said following a 5-2 victory over rival Kingwood on Tuesday night. "Now, they are working as a cohesive unit versus just being nine or 10 people playing on the field."

Atascocita (17-8, 6-2 in District 21-6A play) has won six-straight games and seven of their last eight outings after suffering back-to-back district losses to Kingwood and Summer Creek in early March.

What was big for the Eagles on Tuesday was the longball - a pair of two-run shots from UNLV-signee Kelsie Kelso and Oklahoma-commit Kasidi Pickering - which hasn't been the calling card of this team in 2022 as that was just their 29th and 30th of the year so far.

"We had two clutch ones today," Boyd said. "We really work on driving the ball and hitting on a line. They did a great job, and we got a little extra carry on them tonight."

The other run was driven in by freshman Zoe Bridges with an RBI double in the second inning. She finished 1 for 3 and an RBI.

Atascocita got a solid start from sophomore Vanessa Valdez, who gave up two runs on three hits with two strikeouts in five innings of work. Pickering came in to close out the game with two innings of work and a strikeout - it was her first pitching performance of the season.

"I know I could pitch with a lead and my defense is solid behind me," Pickering said. "I knew I had to get the win for Vanessa."

Kingwood (20-6, 7-1) was handed its first district loss of the season on Tuesday night.

Senior Louisiana Tech-signee Mary Martinez pitched a complete game for the Mustangs giving up the five runs on six hits with three walks and nine strikeouts. Martinez also went 2 for 3 at the dish with an RBI. Jordan Iverson had the other RBI for Kingwood in the sixth inning and finished 2 for 3 at the plate.

"I feel like every time we play them it is the same in that both teams are trying as hard as they can to win, it's a huge rivalry," Kingwood coach Lauren Hendrix said. "It's going to be a nailbiter competition, it's going to be a great game for the community to come watch. This time, it just had a different ending."

Despite the loss, Hendrix and her Mustangs remain atop the district with just a handful of games remaining on the district slate and North Shore coming up on Friday.

"I feel like this is the best team we've had in a while," Hendrix said. "We have great senior leadership. We have five seniors who are all going to play in college. I think that's huge. The leadership they display is second to none. Then, we have a great freshmen group. We are solid all the way through with every single class."

For Atascocita, they will be back in action on Friday at home to take on Summer Creek - the only other team to have beaten them in district play this season - looking to avenge that early season loss.

“We’re more of a team and we’re playing with one goal,” Pickering of the difference now from earlier in the year. “Overall, this was a good win to go into Summer Creek on Friday.”