District 25-2A runners-up prepare for playoffs

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Big Sandy lost its chance at a share of the District 25-2A title Tuesday by falling 3-0 to the Rebels of Evadale in the regular season’s final contest.

The two teams fought through a scoreless tie on the campus of Evadale High School until the bottom of the third. The Rebels singled in the game’s first run and were aided by a Wildcat error and sacrifice bunt, making the score 1-0.

Wildcat starter Ethan Cherry worked out of trouble in the fourth inning, as a runner on first was pushed to second on a sacrifice bunt. An excellent defensive play by Ben Griffin at third base saved a run when he went toward the line to backhand a hard-hit grounder and threw out the runner at first by a step. On the play, a runner advanced to third, but Cherry struck out the last batter of the inning.

Griffin continued his good play by smashing a lead off double in the Wildcats’ next at bat. A bunt put down by T.J. Lilley was back to pitcher Daniel Bean on a hop. Bean was able to field it cleanly and toss to third, getting the lead runner. Justin Adams moved Lilley to second on a sac bunt, giving the ‘Cats a runner in scoring position with two out. Kyle Lennox got a small piece of a pitch, sending it in the air where the Evadale catcher was able to settle under it.

Rebel Gunner Bryan started the fifth inning with a smash down the third base line past a diving Griffin. Catcher Austin Hendrix fielded a bunt laid down by Coy Williams, but the throw was high, sending second baseman Seth Maze off the bag. Cherry induced an infield fly ball, then another in left field. Parker Moye hit a liner to the opposite field that brought home a run and sent another to third for a 2-0 game.

With two out in the sixth, Maze beat out an infield grounder to shortstop to bring up Hendrix. The Wildcat catcher drilled a single into left, giving the team runners on first and second. Layton VonBerg also grounded to shortstop, but the ball was fielded and thrown to second for the force and end of the threat.

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Gunner Bryan led off the bottom of the sixth with a single that lifted Cherry from the mound. Hendrix was brought in from behind the plate to hold the Evadale attack.

Hendrix struck out Cade Flowers when he tried to bunt a third strike. Chase Simmons was hit by a pitch, as was Williams to load the bags. Paxton Bryan walked, bringing in the third Evadale run. The junior hurler then got Tyler Torres and Moye on strikes to work out of the jam.

Cherry, the Wildcats’ No. 2 starter, took the hill Tuesday to help the team determine a playoff strategy. Big Sandy coach Jacob Hooker said Cherry’s performance and the efforts of Lilley in previous games have given him the confidence to seek a three game series in the postseason, as opposed to one game.

“We needed to see how we were going to compete when it comes to the playoffs,” Hooker said. “I wanted to decide if we wanted to go one game or three games. I feel like we have one of the better threes (pitcher) in the area with T.J. Lilley. I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone tried to flip us for one game. We are going to regroup tomorrow and get back into the cage and get back to hitting. We’re flying open, not stepping when we are swinging, and it’s just the fundamental little things that we’re going to get back in the cage and do.”

Down 3-0, Big Sandy needed base runners. However, Bean was strong in his final trip to the mound, retiring the side quickly for the win.

“Bean has been a thorn in our side in both games,” Hooker said. “He was better tonight than he was the first time around, I thought. We squared up a few balls, but we just couldn’t put anything together tonight. It is the same thing that happened the first time around. He was a lot better than he was the first time around.”

Big Sandy (19-4-1) will begin the postseason with Burton (13-9) Friday at 7 p.m. at New Waverly High School. It will be a three-game series, with the second game Saturday at 2 p.m. Game 3, if necessary, would be 30 minutes after the conclusion of Game 2.

DSC 4012Seth Maze connects on a pitch during District 25-2A baseball action in Evadale Tuesday.

DSC 4048Big Sandy head coach Jacob Hooker chats with Wildcat T.J. Lilley during a timeout in action Tuesday in Evadale.