Tigers fall to Bryan in the quarterfinals
Tuesday, 05 June 2012 by Chuck Kelly
The Belton Tiger varsity baseball team ends the 2012 season as quarterfinalists --- three runs in two "nailbiters" spelled the difference in the Tigers showdown with their district foe, the Bryan Vikings.
Early mistakes cost the Tigers in the 4-2 opening loss and a two-out line drive in the bottom of the eighth earned the Vikes a come-from-behind 6-5 victory to sweep the series.
In the opening game last Thursday at UMHB's Red Murph Field, Belton was unable to overcome a disastrous three-run first inning.
TC-bound Blayten Magana walked the leadoff hitter on a 3-2 pitch. A sacrifice bunt moved the runner to second. The third batter swatted a little infield dinger a few feet from the plate and an overthrow to first allowed the base runner to score. The next batter singled to center field to put players at first and second. Magana got his first of nine strikeouts for the evening when he whiffed the batter on a swinging third strike on a 1-2 count. Two on base and two outs! The Vikings' shortstop blasted a two RBI double down the left field line to the wall and put Bryan up 3-0. The final batter of the inning flew out to center field.
The Tigers went back to the dugout in order 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first.
Magana dropped the first batter of the second with a swinging strike three and the next at the plate flew to right for out number two. A double to the right field wall and an RBI single to center gave the Vikings their final scores of the game.
Belton failed to score in the second and Bryan led 4-0 after two innings.
Magana confidently began to regain control of the plate...the first batter made it to first on a bad throw but the next two struck out and a shot to Walker Winders at shortstop ended the inning.
It was rally-time for the Big Red --- Winders singled down the third base line and with two outs, Shane Ward caught a 1-1 pitch and drove it to right center to plate Winders for the Tigers first run of the game. Jared Janczak singled to put runners at first and third but a strikeout ended the third inning.
Magana posted his fifth and sixth K's of the game and the third batter flew out to Janczak in center in the top of the fourth.
In the fifth, Jarret Pickens walked and with two outs, Ward got his second RBI of the evening with a double to left that scored Pickens. 4-2, Vikings.
That was the end of game one's scoring and Bryan rode away with a 1-0 edge over their old district rivals.
The two teams met Saturday on a strange neutral field at Mumford, Texas.
This turned out to be a non-stop test of who could handle the tension and the game was a pressure-cooker from start to finish, from one inning to the next.
Hunter Houston took the mound for Belton and unusually struggled at first.
A pair of wild pitches helped Bryan score twice in the first inning without getting a hit. Both Vikes drew a walk and then followed with runs.
The Tigers scored in the top of the second on a Pickens double and a Ward grounder.
Bryan then took a 3-1 lead when a triple took a crazy bounce in the outfield and the runner later scored from third on an infield single.
Belton scored three times in the fourth to snatch a 4-3 lead. Winders walked and catcher Joe Pare singled with a hit-and-run. The Tigers scored on an error when a throw wound up in deep right field. Baylor-committed Max Hogan plated Ward, who had relieved Hunter on the mound.
The Vikes tied the battle at 4-4 with a two-out rally but Belton wasn't thru yet in this back-and-forth battle.
You could literally "feel" the tension mounting --- a Belton win would send the teams into a decisive third game and a Bryan victory would send the Vikings to the semi-finals and send the Tigers home.
Belton had a chance to take the lead in the seventh and it didn't work out but in the top of the eighth, Hogan stroked another of his massive doubles to score Winders and give the Tigers the 5-4 lead. Belton loaded the bases but Bryan escaped without further damage.
Ward tried to close out the game by opening the bottom of the eighth with a strikeout. He issued a walk but that runner was put out on a grounder by the next teammate. Two outs! Bryan doubled into the right field corner and the Vikings had runners at second and third. Two outs!
Bryan's third baseman took the first pitch for a ball and then shot a sizzling line drive over the head of Pickens in right field, scoring two runs to give the District 12-5A champion Vikings (26-6) a 6-5 win over the Belton Tigers (19-14).
It wasn't the ending Belton had dreamed of but it wasn't a "gimme" for Bryan either. It was a close, hard-fought series between two talented, disciplined and well-coached high school baseball teams. As Tiger head coach Eddie Cornblum expressed it, his team "played like champs"! Amen.