High School Volleyball

Texas power programs do battle in state semis

TWHS Skylar Scott. Photo by Jerry Baker

Originally appeared on Vype.com.

So, can the Hebron Hawks be knocked off their perch a top Class 6A volleyball?

The Hawks have won back-to-back state titles. The last team to do that was… The Woodlands. The Woodlands and Hebron do battle Friday night in the UIL State Semis in Garland, Texas, and one of these power programs will be the odd-on favorites to win the Class 6A title.

The Highlanders and Hawks faced off in the John Turner Classic earlier this season and battle it out in a best of three sets, where the Hawks won.

“It was a crazy competitive match,” The Woodlands Terri Wade said. “When we watch the film over, it was a battle of great players. This is going to be about who is going to make the least amount of errors.”

The Woodlands is led by setter Sophie Walls (Miami-signee) and hitters Courtney Heiser (Texas State), Dylan Maberry (LSU) and AJ Koele (Mississippi State). The defensive star is Georgia Murphy (Oregon) along with Skylar Scott.

“We have three hitters with over 400 kills a piece,” she said. “We run a fast offense and Sophie never comes off the floor. She runs the offense and is aggressive. No one compete like her. She’s a vocal leader and has improved so much over the past three years.”

This is Wade’s first state final appearance at The Woodlands and is trying to quell her excitement.

“Just the anxiety of being competitive is what fuels me,” she said. “We aren’t going to talk about what Hebron does. We just worry about what we can control. We have faced some great teams this season, so we are ready.”

Hebron counters with Minnesota-commit Adanna Rollins (469 kills) and Emma Clothier (351 kills) up front and San Diego-signee Annie Benbow on defense. The Hawks have a lofty No. 2 ranking in the state of Texas and have won four title over the past 12 years.

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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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