LUBBOCK The Odessa High Bronchos bounced back Saturday to win the decisive third game of their Class 6A baseball area playoff series to extend their season yet again.
Odessa High defeated Abilene High 7-3 at Moegle Field to overcome an 11-5 loss in Game 2 earlier in the day. The Bronchos also won Friday’s series opener 7-3.
Damian Aspeitia pitched six solid innings and had two RBIs to help the Bronchos (26-10) move on to the regional quarterfinals, where they will meet Keller Timber Creek. Details of the matchup are to be determined.
Aspeitia (7-3) took a one-hit shutout into the sixth inning as Odessa High built a 5-0 lead. He finished allowing three runs on three hits with two strikeouts, two walks and a hit batter.
“It took a lot,” Aspeitia said of the series win. “We’ve been working so hard for it and all of us achieved it. It feels good that we’re going to the third round.
“My fastball was working best for me. I was getting people looking at it or swinging and missing.”
The Bronchos opened Game 3 with two runs in the first and added three in the third to take command. Odessa High coach Josh Hulin said the tone was set by the way the team responded in Game 2 after falling behind 7-0.
“I really feel that Game 3 was the result of the fight and resilience we had had in Game 2, because they jumped all over us,” Hulin said. “Even though the final score in Game 2 wasn’t very close, we showed a lot of fight and a lot of grit.
“I was extremely proud of my guys for the fight and grit they showed in Game 2. I think because of that and because of that character, they carried it over to the final game of the series.”
The visiting team won all three games in the series, taking the lead for good in the top of the first inning each time. In Game 2, the Eagles struck for four runs in the first and scored in every inning but the seventh. In Game 3, Odessa High scored two runs in the first and held off Abilene High’s comeback bid, which saw the Eagles bring the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the seventh.
“Starting early helps, but you’ve got to finish games, too,” Eagles coach Ryan Lewis said. ‘We gave it a run there at the end, we just weren’t able to give it enough.
“It was kind of a little unfortunate that last game. We hit a lot of balls hard. Terrell (Franklin) hit three that I know of. (Andrew) Bennett hit a hard one that I thought was getting over everybody. But that’s the way it is. That’s how baseball go.”
Aspeitia went 3 for 4 at the plate with RBI singles in the first and seventh. Jacob Munoz was 2 for 4 with an RBI double in the seventh, while Tony Carrasco singled in two runs during the Bronchos’ three-run third.
“I trust these guys with everything,” Aspeitia said. “If it weren’t for them being able to get on base, I wouldn’t have been able to drive them in. It’s just great to know we work together as a team.
Munoz was productive in both games, finishing a combined 4 for 7 with three doubles and two RBIs. In five playoff games, the Bronchos have averaged 6.2 runs.
“Everybody’s just wanting to drive the ball hard,” Munoz said of the offensive surge. “Coach is always teaching us to hit high line drives, and that’s all we want to do. We don’t worry about anything bigger, we just worry about producing for the team.
Abilene High (21-13) scored all its runs in the sixth on a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly by Terrell Franklin and Josh Carroll’s RBI single. Marcus Romero, who broke up Aspeitia’s no-hit bid with a leadoff single in the fourth, finished 2 for 3 as the Eagles totaled four hits.
Eagles starter Andrew Ezzell (2-2) was charged with five runs on seven hits over three innings. He had one strikeout and one walk, which came with the bases loaded in the third.
Andres Martinez, who spent the first six innings at catcher, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh as the Eagles brought the tying run to the plate. After J.D. Dugger led off the inning with a double, Martinez issued a two-out walk to Doak Holloway and hit Wes Berry before getting Romero to pop out to end the series.
In Game 2, Abilene High’s Ryan Johnson pitched a complete game, allowing five runs on eight hits, striking out three and walking one. After getting roughed up for four runs in the fifth inning, Johnson (10-2) retired the last eight batters.
Franklin was 2 for 4 with a two-run double to spark the Eagles’ first-inning outburst. Ezzell was 3 for 3 with two RBIs, while Carroll and Dugger also drove in two runs. Berry was 3 for 4 with four runs scored as Abilene High finished with 13 hits off four Odessa High pitchers.
Bobby Salinas (2-3) took the loss for the Bronchos, allowing seven runs on 10 hits in 3.1 innings.
Hervey Nieto tripled in two runs in Odessa High’s four-run fifth-inning rally. Munoz, who was 2 for 3, added an RBI double and Gibrian Pena had an RBI single. Salinas, who also played first base and catcher after leaving the mound, drove in the Bronchos first run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.
While Abilene High took advantage of almost every opportunity, the Bronchos missed early chances to get back in the game. Down 6-0 in the third, Odessa High failed to score after Carrasco and Julian Jimenez led off with back-to-back singles. Odessa High got just one run in the fourth after Nieto was hit by a pitch to lead off and Munoz doubled to put runners at second and third with no outs.
After the Bronchos cut the deficit to four runs in the fifth, Abilene High extended its lead with two unearned runs in the sixth. Odessa High committed two of its five errors in the inning.
CLASS 6A AREA PLAYOFF SERIES
At Moegle Field, Lubbock
Abilene High 411 122 0 — 11 13 0
Odessa High 000 140 0 — 5 8 5
Ryan Johnson and Terrell Franklin. Bobby Salinas, Tony Carrasco (4), Hervey Nieto (5), Jordan Munoz (6) and Andres Martinez, Salinas (5). W — Johnson (10-2). L — Salinas (2-3). 2B — Abilene High: Franklin; Odessa High: Jacob Munoz 2. 3B — Odessa High: Hervey Nieto.
Odessa High 203 000 2 — 7 9 0
Abilene High 000 003 0 — 3 4 3
Damian Aspeitia, Andres Martinez (7) and A.Martinez, Bobby Salinas
(7). Andrew Ezzell, Bailey Aulerich (4) and Terrell Franklin. W — Aspeitia (7-3). L — Ezzell (2-2). 2B — Odessa High: Jacon Munoz; Abilene High: J.D. Dugger.
Records — Odessa High 26-10, Abilene High 21-13.