CANYON - There's a pretty famous story from a pretty famous piece of literature that tells the story of a young shepherd boy defeating the greatest Philistine warrior in the enemy camp - and doing it with a sling and a stone.
Obviously, the situation of Friday night's NCAA South Central Regional Tournament game for Tarleton State wasn't quite to the level of David and Goliath's showdown - it didn't make the celebration any less sweet.
Tarleton State took on the role of underdog Friday night and played like favorites by defeating the reigning national champion West Texas A&M Lady Buffs on their home field 2-1 to advance to the winner's second round game on Friday afternoon against Cameron.
"I'm proud that we tuned out the outside noise and stayed together in the fight," said head coach Julie Mata. "We reasoned that for every fan they had yelling for them, we had 10 or so fans out there rooting for the purple. We focused on the game, playing together as a unit and that's why we came out on top tonight."
Let's set the scene.
Tarleton State has not been in an NCAA playoff game since 2007, has one senior on the roster and the starting battery for Thursday's game were two freshmen.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the diamond: West Texas A&M is ranked No. 3 in the nation, playing on their home field as the top seed in the South Central region and is the reigning NCAA Division II National Champions.
Obviously, nobody told the Tarleton State TexAnns.
"This team had worked hard on the mental game all season long and we focused on sticking with our plan regardless of who we were playing today," said Mata. "West Texas A&M is a very talented ball club and we had to focus on our routines, not them."
The pitching combination of Haley Freyman and Shelby Hedrick, as well as catcher Nyka Wood, kept the Lady Buffs - who entered tonight's game ranked No. 1 in the nation with a .369 team batting average - off balance throughout the contest, beginning in the first inning when Freyman struck out the recently named Lone Star Conference Player of the Year looking before Wood threw out the final out of the inning trying to steal third base to keep things 0-0 after one.
Tarleton State broke through on the run column in the top of the second after Erika Menchaca got the party started with a leadoff single.
After a sacrifice bunt and a lineout put Tarleton in a two-out situation, Delaney Wayland worked a walk and Lauren Powers reached on an infield single to load the bases. Melody Mayse drove in the first run of the game with an RBI single through the left side for a 1-0 Tarleton lead.
With the bases still loaded, Savannah Stech came all the way back in the count from down 0-2 to coax a bases-loaded RBI walk for what would ultimately be the winning run and a 2-0 lead in the top of the second.
West Texas A&M got one run back in the ensuing half inning, but Tarleton escaped a two-out, bases-loaded jam on a defensive scoop at first base by Menchaca, the LSC Gold Glove winner, to end the inning and keep the TexAnns on top 2-1.
Freyman kept the Lady Buffs scoreless over the next two innings with only one base runner reaching. She would come out of the game after a leadoff walk in the fifth, giving way to Shelby Hedrick out of the bullpen.
The first batter Hedrick faced reached on a bunt single to put two on with no outs and the No. 2, 3 and 4 hitters in the Lady Buff lineup due up. Hedrick got a looking strikeout, a ground ball back to the pitcher to freeze the runner on third and a swinging strikeout of the Lady Buff cleanup hitter to end the threat and keep Tarleton on top.
After a scoreless sixth, Tarleton State had the bases loaded in the top of the seventh but couldn't cash in with two outs to head into the final half-inning clinging to a one-run lead.
West Texas A&M got the crowd on its feet with back-to-back singles to lead off the inning before a sacrifice bunt moved the runners to second and third with one out and the LSC Player of the Year at the plate.
Hedrick's pitch was lined up the middle and snagged for the out by freshman shortstop Delaney Wayland for the second out of the inning and setting up the final batter of the game - the Lady Buff cleanup hitter.
The Tarleton State junior right hander stayed in attack mode and got the final strike on a swing and a miss with a full count to seal the deal and start the celebration for the TexAnns.
Tarleton got five hits from five different hitters on the night, including Mayse, Stech, Katelyn Conlee, Menchaca and Powers while Freyman and Hedrick held the West Texas A&M lineup to one run on seven hits.
Freyman earned her 21st win of the season with 4.0 innings of work, allowing one run on three hits and three walks with two strikeouts, before giving way to Hedrick who earned her second save of the season with 3.0 innings of scoreless work on four hits with four strikeouts.
Tarleton State will continue its pursuit of a Super Regional berth Saturday afternoon with a 1:30 p.m. showdown with Cameron, who defeated Angelo State in the first game Friday at Schaeffer Park.