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Livingston student-athletes sign with colleges

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4 9 lion sigingsLivingston student-athetes (L-R) Janae Bland, Ashley Froese and Blayson Vallejos sign letters of intent Wednesday.  They are joined by their coaches (standing, l-r) Heather Mosser, Manny Rivera, and David Miller. Courtesy photo

Three Livingston student athletes inked with college athletic programs in a signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon in DeWalt Field House.

Janae Bland, the daughter of Leonard and Connie Bland, has signed a letter of intent with the Centenary College softball team of Shreveport, Louisiana. Bland plans to major in kinesiology and minor in art. She played for the Lady Lions varsity softball all four years in the outfield, at second base, and shortstop. She was named first team softball all-district in 2021 and 2022, while obtaining honorable mention all-district in volleyball for 2022 and 2023. She was also a regional qualifier in golf. Bland earned Academic all-district honors in volleyball from 2020-2022, softball from 2021-2023, and golf from 2021-2023. 

Ashley Froese, the daughter of Bobby and Kristi Froese, has signed a letter of intent with Paris Junior College soccer in Texas, with plans to major in education. She played forward and midfield for the varsity Lady Lions for three years. She earned first-team all-district in her junior and senior years. 

Blayson Vallejos, the son of Pete and Kym Vallejos, signed a letter of intent with the Wayland Baptist University in Plainview, Texas, to play baseball. He plans to major in engineering and minor in architecture. Vallejos has played for the varsity Lions for two years as a pitcher and third baseman. His ag mechanics team won the division champion award, and he also won reserve grand champion as a member of Livingston FFA.

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Fighting like ‘Cats and ‘Dogs

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033023 onalaska softballLady Cat Kayleigh Wilson catches a pop fly to right field in the seventh inning. Onalaska shortstop Mary Joy Cariaga tags out a runner advancing to third base. Photos by Brian Besch

By Brian Besch
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Free passes, whether by base on balls or hit batter, prevented Onalaska softball from claiming victory Tuesday, dropping a 14-13 offensive feast in the final inning.

New Onalaska coach Steve Gorden said his staff counted 16 Crockett girls that were either walked or hit by a pitch Tuesday. The Lady Bulldog offense didn’t have to assist much to get runs across.

“We are trying to develop pitching from girls that have played other positions,” Gorden said. “We have outfielders playing the infield, so it is tough right now.”

Down 3-0 in the second inning, the Onalaska offense got on the board when Maegan Reyes tripled and Mary Joy Cariaga reached on error, allowing the run to cross.

After surrendering two more runs, the Lady Cats went back to work, as Kayla Houser walked and stole two bags. Charlie McNeely walked and stole second and Kayleigh Wilson grounded into a fielder’s choice to bring in Houser. A passed ball plated McNeely, and the score was 5-3 Crockett after three frames.

In the bottom of the fourth, A.J. Pinkert hit an inside-the-park homer to cut into the Lady Bulldog lead at 8-4.

The bottom of the fifth, now down 9-4, saw the Lady Cats again put pressure on the visitors. Wilson walked and Shelby Key was safe at first with an infield single. Reyes, batting in the nine hole, slapped a two-RBI single into right field. She then stole second and was pushed to third on a sacrifice bunt from Cariaga. A wild pitch got Reyes home for a 9-7 game.

Crockett added three in the top half, but that did not deter the Onalaska offense. Houser walked and stole two bases, then a passed ball scored her. Wilson walked and stole second base, then advanced to third on a throwing error. Key walked and Reyes was hit by a pitch to load the bases.

Cariaga represented the tying run at the plate, and reached on an infield single. Kalli Saucier drove in two with a single of her own, making it a one-run game.

Pinkert then hammered a ball into right field. Two runners scored to take the lead, and Pinkert was thrown out at home, trying for her second inside-the-park home run.

The small advantage was short-lived, as free passes again haunted Onalaska. Crockett regained the lead by one in the top of the seventh at 14-13.

The Lady Cats threatened in their half of the seventh with runners on second and third and no one out. However, a line drive to shortstop was snagged and the runner at third was doubled up. A strikeout ended the contest with a runner in scoring position.

A string of unfortunate events have led to the Onalaska pitching woes.

“Our starting pitcher from last year quit just as the season started, and then our J.V. pitcher quit because she had ag projects,” Gorden said. “Our catcher (Kaitlyn Wilson), who Sam Houston State is interested in, had to be our pitcher. She started pitching and we had a catcher that is trying to fill in. Then, (Wilson) got into a car accident, not this last Sunday, but the Sunday before on the way to softball practice. She almost died. The engine of the car was sitting outside of the front of the car, and everything was just torn up.”

The coach said Wilson is doing much better now and that the seatbelt saved her life. He said her vehicle went airborne, then hit an embankment.
“It has been tough. We started out with a lot of promise. The rest of the district is really tough. We needed this one tonight and we need the one Friday to have a chance, according to who we’re playing and what their records are. You never know, you have to play the game. It is going to be tough for Onalaska.”

The softball team travels to Crockett Friday, then returns home for a game with Tarkington Tuesday.

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Missed opportunities

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031623 lion baseballKason Nelson threw 6.1 innings, allowing just two hits. Photos by Brian Besch

By Brian Besch
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Livingston baseball was on the short side of a 5-3 contest in their first district game at home Tuesday night versus the Falcons of Huffman Hargrave.

The opportunities were there, but the Lions could not take advantage. Errors and walks that extended innings for the Hargrave offense added to the frustrations the Livingston attack had in leaving runners on base.

“That’s a tough one to lose,” new Lion coach David Miller said. “Anytime you lose a district ball game, it’s a tough one, especially one where you had a chance to win it in the seventh inning. There are some things that we have to work on, but the beauty of it is everything that we have seen is fixable. I told the guys that we have to come to work tomorrow ready to go.”

The Falcons scored their first three runs – in the first, second and fifth innings – all on sacrifice fly balls. They added another in the fifth on a wild pitch to make it 4-0.

Livingston threatened in the second with two in scoring position, and in the third with the bases loaded. A single by Chevy Peters in the fourth inning with a runner on second looked as though it would plate a run, but Lane Ward was thrown out at the plate from shallow left field.

However, the Lions would break through in the fifth, when leadoff hitter Bryce Barnes was hit by a pitch. Caden Vickery followed with a single and both advanced a base on a wild pitch. Jordan Huson drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Jordan Bush was robbed in left field, as a diving catch ended the inning.

Pitcher Kason Nelson exited the game after 6.1 innings, surrendering just two hits in his outing. He did walk a batter before leaving, who would come around to score on a single by Falcon pitcher Romero Meza. It was Meza’s third RBI of the night.

“Kason pitched his butt off for us tonight and made some adjustments as the game went,” the coach said. “We just have to find a way to put a full seven Innings together on the mound and on the field.”

Down 5-1 in their final at-bat, Livingston kept fighting. Barnes was hit by a pitch and Vickery singled. Huson walked to load the bases with no outs. A controversial call occurred beyond second base when an infield fly rule was called, yet no one made a play. Miller argued with umpires that a defender was not around to call the infield fly rule, but to no avail. A run did score after tagging at third, cutting the lead to 5-2. A wild pitch allowed another run to score, but the Lion rally would end there.

Livingston is 0-2 to begin the district portion of the schedule, also dropping a 5-0 game to Hamshire-Fannett on Friday. The coach said Nelson again pitched well in the district opener, with no score going into the bottom of the sixth. The coaching staff is constantly evaluating, according to Miller, and the lineup penciled in for Tuesday may not be the same in a few weeks.

“So far, we have played some tough teams. We have run the gauntlet as far as all of these tournaments that we have played in, and we have played multiple ranked teams. They have run up against some quality arms and some quality teams that can hit and play defense. We are 6-10 right now and I would much rather be 10-6.

“They fought (tonight). These kids will fight and I’m proud of that. They have worked their tails off all year, and it is in there. We are trying continually to bring that out and we are putting them in tough situations to fight through it.”

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