ABILENE The Odessa High baseball team battled to the end Saturday, but Keller Timber Creek held on for an 8-5 victory in Game 3 of a Class 6A regional quarterfinal series at Walt Driggers Field.
Down 7-2 in the fourth inning, the Bronchos (27-12) fought back to load the bases in the seventh and had the winning run at the plate when the game ended.
“That’s this team,” Odessa High coach Josh Hulin said. “That’s these guys. That’s the senior class that we have. They’re scrappers.
“It’s a lot of fun to coach kids like that. You’d love to have kids like Timber Creek has (in Mateo Gil) where their dad played in the bigs, they throw 92 miles an hour and can hit it 450 feet. But I’d take my guys any day of the week because they’re just so much fun to watch. They’re so much fun to coach. What an incredible ride.”
The Falcons (29-10) overcame the loss of cleanup hitter Lance Barnett, who suffered a leg injury trying to chase down a fly ball in the first inning, by scoring four runs in the third to break the game open and extend their season.
“That’s a tribute to the kids,” Timber Creek coach Derek Watson said. “They prepare and the next guy steps up and he does a good job. That’s what you expect of them and I’m proud of them.”
Timber Creek will face Southlake Carroll, the No. 1 team in Class 6A, next week in the regional semifinals. Watson said details of the matchup are to be determined.
Both teams struggled at the plate — Timber Creek finished with six hits and Odessa High had just two — but the Falcons took advantage of five walks, three hit batters, a balk and three Odessa High errors to push across runs.
“I thought our hitters did a good job, especially early on, of being disciplined and not swinging at bad pitches,” Watson said. “That’s a big part of the game. I thought we did a good job of that.”
Timber Creek’s Rhett Halstead was the only player on either team with more than one hit, finishing 2 for 4 with two RBIs.
Falcons’ starter Jacob Keller went five innings for the win, holding the Bronchos to three earned runs on two hits. He struck out three and walked two.
Gil, who started at shortstop and went 1 for 3 at the plate, pitched the last two innings for the save and allowed an unearned run. He walked the bases full in the seventh before getting Jacob Munoz for the final out.
Odessa High starter Damian Aspeitia (7-4) was charged with seven runs, five earned, on four hits over four innings in taking the loss. He struck out four and walked three. Tony Carrasco pitched the final three innings for the Bronchos, giving up an unearned run on two hits.
Timber Creek struck first when Zack Gregory scored from second as the Bronchos were unable to turn a double play on Barnett’s grounder to second. Odessa High took the lead with two runs in the bottom of the first. Andres Martinez walked and Gibrian Pena tripled to left, the play on which Barnett was injured, and Hervey Nieto followed with an RBI groundout.
The Falcons tied it in the second on Halstead’s two-out RBI single. Odessa High center fielder Charles McLure made a diving attempt at the catch and came up with the ball, but was ruled to have trapped it.
Timber Creek broke the game open in the third despite getting just one hit. After a walk, a hit batter and a balk, Jose Luna, Barnett’s replacement, reached on a third-strike wild pitch, which allowed a run to score. Two more came across when Brayden McAlister reached on an error and Halstead singled in another run to give the Falcons a 6-2 lead.
Hulin said the balk call on Apseitia was the turning point.
“They had runners on first and second and were trying to get a bunt down, we get strike 2 and they call a balk,” Hulin said. “I felt like that balk changed the momentum of the game.
“I completely, 100 percent disagree with it. The umpires did not decide the outcome of this game, but I thought the play that changed the momentum was the balk call. We had an 0-2 count on a kid that’s not going to swing away. Instead, they balk us, it goes (runners at) second and third and he’s 0-1. That kind of swung the momentum on their side, and then they get a four-run inning.”
Drew Pollum singled in a run in the fourth to make it 7-2 before Odessa High scored twice in the bottom of the inning to get back in the game. Munoz led off with a walk, Baeza followed with a single and the moved up on an error. Munoz scored on a balk and Bo. J. Martinez drove in Baeza with a fielder’s choice.
Odessa High added a run in the sixth when Munoz walked, moved to third on a wild pitch and a passed ball and scored when Gil was called for a balk. Timber Creek added an unearned run in the seventh when Halstead reached on a two-out error.
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Timber……….. 114 1001 — 8 6 3
Odessa………. 200 2010 — 5 2 3
Jacob Keller, Mateo Gil (5) and Nic Thompson. Damian Aspeitia, Tony Carrasco (5) and Andres Martinez. W — Keller. L — Aspeitia (7-4). Sv — Gil. 3B — Odessa High: Gibrian Pena.
Records — Keller Timber Creek (29-10); Odessa High (27-12).