SAN ANTONIO – Hays High’s 2019 campaign came to a close Friday after the Rebels were swept in two games by the state-ranked San Antonio Reagan Rattlers in a best-of-3 area round series.
“Two separate ball games, but today’s story was way different from yesterday’s story,” said Hays head coach James Howard after the Game 2 loss. “Today the problem was just getting guys on base and to not come through with a clutch hit.”
After an exhilarating series win over NB Canyon in the Bi-District round last weekend, the Rebels lost their mojo and couldn’t carry over momentum against Reagan, currently ranked No. 2 in Class 6A.
Struggles on the mound in Game 1 hurt the Rebels in the 13-3 loss, then the tables turned and struggles at the plate sent the team home with a 4-0 loss in Game 2.
While pitching depth helped Hays defeat Canyon, the pitching woes came all at once in Game 1 as they walked 14 Rattler batters. After only being down 5-3 heading into the fifth inning, the wheels came off the bus for the Rebels when Reagan scored eight runs in the final two frames of the game.
“Pretty cut and dry and simple, you’ve got to throw strikes,” Howard said. “We didn’t do that. To win high school baseball games you cannot give them stuff, especially the number two ranked team in state and we gave them too many freebies.”
In Game 2, Hays was unable to find a way to put runs on the scoreboard despite out-hitting Reagan 9-4 and having two separate bases-loaded opportunities.
Hays ended up leaving 10 runners on base during the game as a team and didn’t come up with the clutch hits the Rattlers seemed to find.
“We left too many guys on base,” Howard said. “We had nine hits. They (Reagan) did a really good job of bowing their neck and finishing when we had guys in scoring position. We just couldn’t come through with that clutch hit that we needed.”
Hays senior Seth Stephenson went 2-for-4 hitting in Game 2 with two hit balls that reached the warning track in left field.
The first ball hit the wall and gave Stephenson a stand-up double, while the other was tracked down by the Rattler left fielder. Rebel Taylor Monroe also had a solid hitting performance, going 3-for-3 with three singles in Game 2.
As far as pitching, Hays recouped with senior Jeremy Copeland on the mound as he kept the Rebels in the game while giving up four runs on four hits, with six walks and six strikeouts. Copeland held the Rattlers to two runs scored until the final inning of game when he had already reached more than 100 pitches.
“He (Copeland) gave us every chance to win that ball game, and that’s all you can ask from him,” Howard said. “Gutsy performance from a senior. He pitched with a lot of heart out there. A lot of determination.”
Hays season ends with a 26-10 record and 18 seniors departing from the program. Howard said the heart and fight shown by the upperclassmen was a big factor for the successful season.
“Just that I’m proud of them,” Howard said. “They accomplished way more than any other team in the last five years, to get 26 wins in a season is a great accomplishment. It’s just a great group of seniors. I’m going to definitely miss them. The juniors and sophomores coming up have big shoes to fill.”