NEDERLAND — A familiar foe stands between Nederland and the next round of the playoffs. Just because Montgomery is familiar does not make the Lady Bears any more beatable than they were last season.
Nederland will face Montgomery in the area round of the playoffs beginning at 7 p.m. Thursday. Game 2 will be at 6 p.m. Friday in Nederland with Game 3, if necessary, played 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 2.
For two years, Montgomery has knocked the Lady Bulldogs out of the playoffs. Montgomery took two games from Nederland last season in the area round, but didn’t stop there. The 2012 Lady Bears took 10 of 11 playoff games, including nine in a row, before falling 9-8 to Smithson Valley in the state championship game.
That Lady Bears team graduated two key pieces to last year’s team in catcher Cali Lanphear and pitcher Katelyn Sanders. Lanphear has gone on to become the best hitter for No. 15 Texas A&M, as Lanphear is hitting .363 in 47 games for the Aggies with 18 home runs, 52 RBIs and 40 runs scored. Sanders, meanwhile, has gone 17-2 with a 2.73 ERA in 112 innings for Texas Lutheran.
Replacing Sanders on the mound for Montgomery is Morgan Skinner, who threw six innings in relief of Sanders in the title game last year. Skinner allowed 10 hits and five runs in 6 innings of work while striking out three.
This year, Skinner has led the Lady Bears (26-8) to a District 18-4A title and has them on a 13-game winning streak. That included a two-game sweep of Hutto in the bidistrict round that saw Montgomery score 18 runs while shutting out the Lady Hippos both times.
Nederland, meanwhile, has won five straight since dropping a second game to Port Neches-Groves during the regular season. That pushed Nederland into a second-place tie with the Lady Indians, which was settled with Nederland getting the third seed from 20-4A.
The Lady Bulldogs (24-9) then took two games from Crosby in a Friday doubleheader that saw MaKayla Kelly pitch 15 innings while striking out seven.
Nederland last advanced to the regional quarterfinals in 2010, when the Lady Bulldogs beat Dayton in the bidistrict round and Willis in the area round. Nederland lost a three-game series to Magnolia in the regional round.