HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Odessa High’s loss to Keller Timber Creek forces pivotal Game 3 in regional quarterfinals

ABILENE For the second week in a row, the Odessa High Bronchos have been pushed to a deciding Game 3 in the Class 6A baseball playoffs.

Keller Timber Creek struck back Friday to win Game 2 of their regional quarterfinal series 10-4 at Walt Driggers Field after the Bronchos won Thursday’s series opener 1-0.

In last week’s area round, Odessa High overcame an 11-5 loss to Abilene High in the second game to advance with a 7-3 victory in the third. The Bronchos (27-11) and Falcons (28-10) return to Walt Driggers Field at 11 a.m. Saturday to determine which team advances to the regional semifinals.

“They beat us and it definitely needs to go to a Game 3,” Odessa High coach Josh Hulin said. “I told my guys there’s no stress, no panic. We’ve been here before and we’re excited about the opportunity we have tomorrow.”

This time, the Bronchos have a night to think things over rather than turning around immediately for Game 3, but Odessa High catcher Andres Martinez said there’s no difference heading into Saturday.

“I’ve got complete confidence in the dude (Damian Aspeitia) that’s pitching tomorrow, so much confidence,” said Martinez, who went 2 for 3 Friday. “We’ve just got to forget about tonight and it’s a new day tomorrow.”

Timber Creek coach Derek Watson said the key Friday for the Falcons was leaving the Game 1 loss, in which Odessa High had just two men reach base, behind them.

“We tell our kids that nothing from one day to the next carries over,” Watson said. “Despite the fact that we fell a little short Thursday night, that didn’t carry over to today. That was a big part of it there.

“I felt like our kids came out with some good focus. We just had a sense of urgency and intensity to take care of business.”

As in last week’s loss, Odessa High gave up four runs in the first inning Friday and trailed the rest of the way. This time, however, the Bronchos made things too easy for the Falcons, Hulin said.

Odessa High starter Bobby Salinas started the game with a hit batter and a pair of four-pitch walks. A run scored on a wild pitch and Brayden McAlister singled in two more with two outs. On the play, Salinas (2-4) suffered an ankle injury backing up the throw to the plate and was removed after 25 pitches.

“The thing about it last week is (Abilene High) earned it,” Hulin said. “They came out and hit the ball. Tonight, I’m not saying we didn’t get beat by Timber Creek at all — they beat us — but we didn’t make them earn it in the first inning.

“We threw 10 or 11 straight balls to start the game and then had to go to a kid (Jordan Munoz) that hadn’t even warmed up.”

Watson said the fast start made a world of difference for Timber Creek, which surpassed its offensive production from Thursday by the end of the second inning Friday.

“In high school baseball, anything can happen, from errors to walks to hits,” he said. “You want to take advantage any time you can and put as many runs on the board as possible.”

McAlister finished 3 for 4 with four RBIs to lead the Falcons, who finished with 10 hits off four Odessa High pitchers. Mateo Gil was 2 for 2 with a triple, two walks and four runs scored, while Lance Barnett, Drew Pollum and Alex Serrell each drove in a run.

Timber Creek starter Cezar Paz went 5.1 innings for the win, allowing four runs on seven hits. He struck out five and walked one. Landon Evans got the final five outs for the save, escaping a two-on, no-out situation in the seventh with a double play.

Julian Jimenez drove in two runs to lead Odessa High. Tony Carrasco was 2 for 3 with a double and an RBI, Jacob Munoz was 2 for 2 and Bo J. Martinez also had an RBI for the Bronchos.

Odessa High got back in the game with three runs in the second. Carrasco doubled in a run and Jimenez and Bo J. Martinez hit into run-scoring fielder’s choices. Jimenez added a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning, but Evans was able to escape further damage.

“We hit balls after that, we just hit it right at them,” Hulin said. “As a matter of fact, we made it a 7-4 game and barreled up two balls for outs to end that inning.

“The only time they got Andres (Martinez) out was a line drive to the left fielder.

“It was a great game. (Timber Creek) deserved the win because they played better ball. But we don’t feel bad at all. We actually feel pretty good that we’re going to play a Game 3.”

Andres Martinez said that the Bronchos don’t intend to go without a fight in Game 3.

“We showed them we’re not going to give up,” he said. “We just showed them how tough we are and that we’re going to come back tomorrow.”

Keller Timber Creek 10, Odessa High 4

At Walt Driggers Field, Abilene

Odessa High    030    001    0    —    4    8    2
Timber Creek    402    103    x    —    10    10    2

Bobby Salinas, Jordan Munoz (1), Michael Gonzalez (3), Angel Rios (6) and Andres Martinez. Cesr Paz, Landon Evans (6) and Nic Thompson. W — Paz. L — Salinas (2-4). Sv — Evans. 2B — Odessa High: Tony Carrasco. 3B — Timber Creek: Mateo Gil.

Records — Odessa High 27-11, Keller Timber Creek 28-10.