Tigers outlast Chargers to hit regional semifinal

Two large ice bags enveloped Dripping Springs Tiger pitcher Grant Gaspard’s arm after throwing 105 pitches in a 2-1 win over the Boerne Champion Chargers May 19.

While movement was somewhat limited, Gaspard still smiled and high-fived teammates after securing the program’s first regional semifinal trip in many years.

But the win also broke a “curse” of sorts for Dripping Springs, which closed a two-year streak of season-ending losses at Rattler Stadium in San Marcos.

Grant Gaspard had thrown105 pitches in 6.2 innings and the Tigers held a 2-1 lead when reliever Reese Johnson came in. With one pitch, Johnson induced a pop up which was caught by shortstop Johnny Hoyle ending Boerne’s season and sealing the victory for Dripping Springs. (photo by Wayland D. Clark, wfotos.com)

For Gaspard and the Tigers, winning in San Marcos was a “confidence booster” for the ball club.

“We felt like the third time was the charm. We’ve worked our tails off for two years in a row and we’ve been on the other side of the coin,” said Chris Payne, Tiger head baseball coach. “It’s great to see these kids who have been with us all these years get past this place and get to the next round.”

Dripping Springs’ success centered on Gaspard, who earned the win by going 6.2 innings and notching one strikeout. Gaspard’s command and control in his outing kept Charger batters off balance. He was aided by a Tiger defense that made key defensive plays, which further limited the Charger offense. Gaspard allowed five hits and only one run in the contest. No Charger batter reached third base in the game.

“You always have to keep them off balance, mixing up your timing and giving them different looks,” Gaspard said. “I just pitched the best I could and did what I knew how.”

Gaspard also had a penchant to pitch out of precarious situations as well. With runners on first and second in the fourth inning, Gaspard forced a 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.

He faced his most pressing challenge with a runner on second base and one out in the sixth inning. Gaspard forced a groundball out and notched his only strikeout of the game. “He’s pretty much cool, calm and collected and he stays as smooth as possible,” Payne said.

On offense, Dripping Springs tallied its only two runs via a two-out rally in the second inning. They did so against Charger left-handed ace Chris Weber, who fanned ten Tigers at the plate.

Dripping Springs Brittan Howeth, who batted in the seventh spot in the order, blasted a two-run homerun over the left field fence.

Payne said Howeth has “been aggressive all year” at the plate and has been in almost every order in the lineup, except for the 8 and 9 spots.

The Tiger coaching staff also tried its best during the week to prepare for Weber and the Chargers, which the Tigers had played twice in the regular season and in a district seeding game in March.

“We got four guys that are lefties in our program and got them to come out and simulate the best Chris Weber we could,” Payne said.

With the win, Dripping Springs advances to take on Corpus Christi Ray in a best-of- 3 regional semifinal.

Payne lauded the team’s grit and “stick-to-it-ness” in reaching the first regional semifinal he’s coached in.

“They don’t want to go home and they don’t want to pack up,” Payne said. “It shows every time we’re on the field.”

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