By Moses Leos III and Taylor Mitchell
A trip to the regional finals was a win away for the Hays Rebel baseball team.
But for the second year in a row, their playoff run ended in the regional semifinal round.
After claiming an extra inning win in San Marcos early Saturday morning, Hays dropped two straight games to the Victoria East Titans, heralding the Rebels exit from the postseason.
“We had an outstanding season,” Hays head coach David Null said. “We set a lot of records for the things that we accomplished.”
Perseverance pushes Rebs over the top
Weather and soggy field conditions at Bobcat Ballpark in San Marcos led to a lengthy delay in Hays’ series opener against Victoria East.
When the game got underway, drama followed.
Despite committing four errors and conceding 14 hits to the Titans, Hays persevered to claim an 8-7 win in a wild 11 inning thriller.
Victoria East got the upper hand in the third inning. A three-run RBI triple from senior Mason Tipton, along with a throwing error, gave the Titans a 4-0 advantage. It grew to 5-1 in the fourth.
Despite conceding momentum, Null stressed the need to rally in spurts.
“We told them we’re behind, but we are going to have to chip away,” Null said.
Hays’ offense struggled against Titan senior pitcher 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.
Senior Justin Diaz changed momentum in the fifth. His two-run RBI double cut the Titan lead to 5-3.
But errors, exacerbated by deteriorating field conditions, took a toll on both teams. An error led to an unearned Victoria East run to score in the fifth.
Hays then responded for a three-run salvo in the sixth, tying the game at 6-6.
The pitching staff soon took over, extending the game into extra innings. Null lauded the efforts of senior Tyler Woodmansee and junior Trey Dickerson.
“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, scoring a run in the tenth to take a 7-6 lead. With two outs and the game on the line, senior JC Cerda stepped up with a clutch RBI single, tying the game.
The momentum carried into the eleventh, as Hays forced an error from the Titans, allowing senior Devin Palm to score the walk off run.
However, similar clutch hitting couldn’t come through in games two and three.
Games two and three: Titan dominance too much for Hays
Where Rebel bats delivered Friday, Victoria East pitchers Kyle Craft and Mike Garcia shut them down Saturday in Victoria.
Garcia pitched the Titans to a 7-4 Game 3 win over Hays Saturday at Riverside Stadium in Victoria.
“We didn’t get shut out all year long,” Null said. “We swung it well all year and we really pitched well all year. Just a special group of kids that I’m very proud of.”
East rebounded from Friday’s loss to capture a 4-3 win in game 2 behind a complete-game performance from Craft.
Garcia hadn’t pitched since East’s District 30-4A finale against Tuloso-Midway, but he pitched a complete game and limited the Rebels to five hits.
Garcia struck out four and walked five – four in the final two innings – but battled his way through 123 pitches.
“He had some adrenaline pumping and he hadn’t thrown in a while in a game,” Victoria East head coach Wes Kolle said. “I just told him to pitch with the lead and let his defense play behind him and he did an outstanding job of that.”
Craft responded by not allowing an earned run. He threw 108 pitches, walked three and struck out five despite pitching an inning in Friday’s night’s game.
Offensively, the Titans combined for 15 hits in Game 2 and 3 and scored multiple runs in four different innings. The Rebels were aided by a 3 for 6 and two RBI performance from Cerda, but to no avail.
“That’s probably the best lineup that we have faced this year,” said Hays coach David Null. “We knew they were going to battle. Last night’s game was an absolute battle. I don’t know if there was ever a turning tide. I thought our kids battled to the end. It was two great baseball teams just getting after each other.”