AUSTIN, Texas — The Santa Gertrudis Lions needed a good start to the UIL state softball tournament, and Saidi Castillo made it a perfect one.
Castillo hurled a perfect game in the Lady Lions’ 5-0 victory over Brock in the Class 3A semifinals Wednesday at McCombs Field.
Castillo (21-0) struck out 12 in tossing the first perfect game in 3A state tournament history and first no-hitter in the class since Hallettsville’s Cherise Klekar did it against Early in the semifinals in 2009.
“That is awesome,” SGA coach Thomas De Los Santos said about Castillo’s feat. “I mean, for her to do what she’s done this season is amazing. She had surgery on the first day of practice. She didn’t pitch 15 games this year because of that. So, she had a late start, and luckily, she’s peaking at the right time. I’d say she’s finally 100 percent right now.”
Castillo had arthroscopic surgery on her left knee, forcing her to miss the first 15 games of the season. At the time, she didn’t think she would be throwing a perfect game in the state semifinals.
“No, I never thought that would happen, but I wouldn’t be able to do it without my defense,” Castillo said.
Coach De Los Santos couldn’t remember if Castillo had thrown a no-hitter this year. Castillo said she did it in a playoff game earlier this season, but just shrugged as if it’s no big deal.
Coach De Los Santos felt the same way.
“She’s such a good pitcher, those stats, it’s like, ‘Great job. I expect that from you,’” he said with a laugh.
And Castillo and the Lions – making their third straight trip to the state tournament — expect nothing less than a state title this time around.
“Her and the rest of this team are really hungry,” Coach De Los Santos said. “They came here with one goal in mind, and that’s to win it. They knew they had to take care of business along the way.”
It’s the second straight year SGA has beaten Brock in the state semifinals. Castillo threw a four-hitter in last year’s 8-2 win over Brock. This also is Castillo’s third trip to state, where she’s 2-2 as a pitcher.
“My first year, I was super nervous,” Castillo said. “I was also nervous last year and had anxiety and stuff. This year, I came in more calm and relaxed knowing this was my third time, and I think we were motivated this year.”
Brock starter Mattye Tyler (28-5) took the loss for the second straight against SGA. She allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits. Tyler struck out none and walked five.
SGA (39-1) plays Hughes Spring (30-3) for the 3A state title at 6 p.m. Thursday at McCombs Field.
The Lady Mustangs scored five runs in their last two at-bats to beat Grandview 5-2 in eight innings in the other 3A semifinal Wednesday. Peyton Blythe’s three-run double was the game-winner in the top of the eighth. Little River Academy beat Hughes Spring 3-2 in the state semifinals last year before beating SGA 5-3 in title game last year.
SGA loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the first only to come up empty. Alyssa Gonzalez and Yadira Lopez both hit one-out singles. Jackie De Los Santos then hit a grounder to short, and the throw by the shortstop to third hit Gonzalez to load the bases. But Tyler got Castillo to pop up to second before Brock third baseman Kelsi Tonips snagged Carissa De Los Santos’ liner to end the inning.
The Lions got on the scoreboard in the second. Jackie Garza was hit by a pitch to start the bottom half of the inning. She took second on Kennedy Silva’s sacrifice bunt and scored on a throwing error that allowed Ali Salinas to reach base after putting down a bunt. The throw by Tyler got past the first baseman Bailey Wagner for an error, allowing Salinas to take second. Brock avoided more trouble when Tonips caught Breanna Carr’s liner and doubled Salinas up at second.
SGA — held to four hits through five innings — erupted for four runs on three hits while sending 10 batters to the plate in the sixth. Silva reached on a leadoff error, took second on Salinas’ sacrifice bunt and scored on an errant throw to third on Breanna Carr’s sacrifice bunt. Carr reached safely on the play and scored on Gonzalez’s single to right. Lopez followed with an RBI triple, and Lopez beat the throw home on Jackie De Los Santos’ fielder’s choice to short.
Coach De Los Santos said the four-run outburst was a big lift for his team going into the final inning.
“I didn’t want to go 1-0 into the last inning,” he said. “As well as she was pitching, anything can happen.”
The big inning also took pressure off Castillo
“It make it really easier knowing my offense had my back and we were up,” she said. “If anything happened, we were still up.”
Castillo said she didn’t think about the perfect game until the final batter.
“I wasn’t nervous about it,” she said. “I was going with the flow. I really wanted to help out my team.”
Now, SGA is a win away from winning its first state softball title, and Castillo’s perfect game gives the Lady Lions confidence going into the championship game.
“She’s 21-0,” Coach De Los Santos said of Castillo, who’ll put her perfect record on the line. “She’s got to have all the confidence in the world, but we’ve got to play the game.”