By Moses Leos III
SAN MARCOS – Adversity was plentiful for the Hays Rebel baseball team Friday at Bobcat Ballpark. Overcoming it now places them a win away from the regional finals.
Despite committing four errors and conceding 14 hits to the Victoria East Titans, Hays persevered to claim an 8-7 win in a wild 11 inning thriller. Hays takes a 1-0 lead in the regional semifinal series. Game two will be played at 4:00 p.m. Saturday at Victoria’s Riverside Stadium.
“We told each other we’ve been here before. We played 19 innings a few weeks ago,” senior JC Cerda said. “I told my team we can battle. We’ve been here before. Let’s do it.”
Victoria East got the upper hand on a wild set of circumstances in the third. With one out and a runner on, Titan junior Jonthan Ortega singled, but was seemingly tagged out while trying for second base.
However, umpires overruled the call, allowing Ortega to stay. Two batters later, with the bases loaded, senior Mason Tipton ripped a three-run RBI triple to right center field. He would score on a throwing error, giving the Titans a 4-0 advantage.
The momentum was in Victoria East’s hands. The Rebels sought a way to get back in the contest. Hays head coach David Null stressed the need to score in spurts.
“We told them we’re behind, but we are going to have to chip away,” Null said. “We’re going to have to score one here, and score one there. We can come back. We’ve done it before.”
Victoria East tallied a run in the top of the fourth before Hays answered in the bottom half.
However, Hays’ offense was limited due in part to the pitching of senior Adrian Gonzales, who Null said mixed his pitches well. Gonzales, who was one of five Titan pitchers on the night, went 4.1 innings with three strikeouts.
But Hays’ inability to deliver the clutch hit became an issue. The Rebels left five baserunners stranded in the first four innings. It changed in the fifth.
With the bases loaded, senior Justin Diaz ripped a two-run RBI single to left center field, cutting the Titans lead to 5-3. A Titan error allowed Hays junior David Riojas to score from second.
Errors began to play a role in the contest — exacerbated by deteriorating field conditions due to weather before the game.
An error with runners on second and third with one out allowed the Titans to score, giving them a 6-4 lead.
“It wasn’t going our way at first. It wasn’t going our way at all,” Cerda said. “We got a little down, but we fight as a team.”
Hays battled back for two runs in the sixth, aided by an RBI double from junior Zach Ibarra and an RBI single from Cerda, tying the contest.
From there, both pitching staffs took over, as they held down the fort, extending the game into extra innings.
Rebel starting pitcher Tyler Woodmansee went seven innings, striking out nine batters. He was relieved by junior Trey Dickerson, who notched a strikeout in four innings of work. Null lauded the efforts of his two hurlers.
“They are gutty guys. We had to make adjustments with [Woodmansee]. Once he made an adjustment, he battled really well,” Null said. “Trey has been great find. He’s doing a great job. He hung in there and did a great job.”
But the Titans showed their mettle in the tenth, scoring a run to take a 7-6 lead. The Rebels responded right back, as junior Athen Shultz walked, and was moved over to third.
With two outs and the game on the line, Cerda stepped up and delivered. He smashed an RBI double to center field off of Titan ace pitcher Kyle Craft, tying the contest.
“I stayed calm and did what I needed to do,” Cerda said. “I got the hit up the middle. That gave my team the fire.”
The momentum carried over into the eleventh. Senior Devin Palm walked with two outs, bringing up sophomore Mike Gonzales, who grounded to third. But an errant throw to first allowed Palm to score the walk off run for Hays’ win.
Hays attention now focuses on game two, and a chance to advance to the regional final round.
“We have to keep doing what we do. We play as a team; there are no individuals out here,” Cerda said. “We have to do work on the mound and behind the plate, and get our (bats) going.”