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Melissa caps off historic run with shutout of Harlingen South in 5A state championship

AUSTIN – 25 years ago, Cassie Crabtree played at the UIL state softball tournament with the Forney Jackrabbits, but the team came up short of a title – losing in the 3A semifinals against Robinson.

Nearly 10 years later Caigan Crabtree was born.

On Saturday, the mother-daughter duo helped the Melissa Cardinals to a historic finish to the season – capped with an 8-0 win over Harlingen South for the Class 5A state championship – the program’s first title all-time.

Cassie has been Melissa’s head coach for the last three seasons. The Cardinals end 38-2-1. Caigan, who is a 2025 Texas commit and the starting shortstop, was named MVP with two home runs and four RBI.

It’s the first UIL state title for a DFW school since Cassie’s alma mater Forney won 5A in 2018.

Melissa was the first to score in Friday’s semifinal round against Lake Belton – on its way to a 4-0 victory. On Saturday, the Cardinals picked up the early lead again.

Emily Johnson led the game off by reaching on an error at first. Kennedy Bradley singled to right center and then stole second to put two on in scoring position. Johnson scored from third on an RBI grounder by freshman Lulu Adrian. Melissa freshman Eloisa Maes started on the rubber for the Cardinals and threw a clean inning in the bottom of the first while picking up one strikeout.

Shug Bradford, who homered on Friday, led the second with a walk and stole second.

Rihanna Wheeler then roped a pitch to right center to score Bradford and give Melissa a 2-0 lead.

Maes ran into trouble after loading the bases on three walks. Crabtree turned to Friday’s winner Alex Starr, a Michigan State commit, with two outs. Starr got out of the jam with the first of six strikeouts for the junior.

Starr threw a three-hit complete game shutout against Lake Belton.

She finished 29-1 on the season after allowing four hits in 5 1/3 innings vs Harlingen South.

Melissa added to its lead with two runs in the third. Johnson, the only senior in the starting lineup, reached with a lead off walk and Bradley got on with an error in the infield. Crabtree grounded out to second to bring in Johnson that made it 3-0. Bradley scored on a sac fly to right from Adrian.

Starr ended the Harlingen South third with another strikeout to keep the Hawks off the board.

Johnson tracked down a deep fly to center that ended the fourth.

The Cardinals put the game well out of reach in the top of the fifth inning. Johnson reached for the third time and scored from first on an RBI double that made it 5-0. Bradley drilled a pitch that hit off the top of the wall in left field. It was about a foot from going out.

Then Crabtree blasted a two-run home run to extend the lead to 7-0.

It will be the future home field for Crabtree at UT. The home run was the 20th of the season – putting her into a tie for second on the team with Bradley and two behind Adrian’s 22 – a DFW single season record.

Johnson made another great play in center in the fifth – running in for the diving catch.

Starr ended the Harlingen South sixth with her sixth strikeout.

Crabtree hit her second home run of the game and 21st of the season with a no-doubter to deep left field that went about 250 feet. It gave Melissa an 8-0 lead. The home run was also the Cardinals’ 92nd for the season – extending their state record.

Crabtree made the final out in the seventh when a pitch was hit softly toward shortstop and the star junior got the diving catch to start up the celebration. In two state tournament games, Crabtree went 5 for 7 with two homers, two doubles and six RBI. She went 3 for 3 with two RBI doubles on Friday vs Lake Belton.

She’s the first player in 5A state tournament history to hit two home runs in a game.

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