The Permian Panthers maintained their hold over the Odessa High Bronchos, but it took a little extra work this time.
Taylor Sullivan’s two-out single in the eighth inning lifted Permian to a 3-2 victory in a key District 2-6A baseball game Saturday afternoon at McCanlies Field, giving the Panthers a sweep of the season series and putting them on the brink of clinching a playoff berth.
“It was just a lot of grit, honestly,” Permian coach Tate Criswell said. “We faced adversity in almost every inning and we just kind of kept chipping away.
“You don’t want to go into extra innings — you want to win the game early — but I’m glad we gained that experience. We’ll need it if we get into the postseason.”
Permian (19-12 overall, 6-7 district) stayed two games ahead of Midland High and Amarillo Tascosa for fourth place in the 2-6A standings. The Panthers can clinch a playoff spot with a victory over the Rebels next week.
In sweeping the series, Permian won its two home games in walkoff fashion. On March 20, Tanner Adams hit a two-run homer in the seventh to give the Panthers a 5-4 victory.
“It’s huge to know you can, to know that as long as you have one strike left you’ve still got a shot,” Criswell said.
Meanwhile, Odessa High (21-8, 7-6) clinched a playoff berth despite the loss thanks to Midland High’s 5-4 victory over Amarillo Tascosa. The Bronchos and Midland Lee are both three games up on the Bulldogs and Rebels with two games remaining.
Odessa High assistant coach Jerod Couch, who ran the team Saturday as head coach Josh Hulin missed the game for personal reasons, said the Bronchos played as well as they have all season.
“We came out and played hard,” Couch said. “I told them after the game that they came out with confidence. It’s the best offensive game we’ve had in a while. Even though the score didn’t show it, we were hitting the ball hard.
“The kids were battling at the plate, making (Permian starting pitcher Seth) Higdon work. He pitched a great game, but I’m proud of them. They worked really hard today.”
Higdon, who did not figure into the decision, and Odessa High starter Damian Aspeitia, hooked up in a pitcher’s duel that needed more than seven innings to decide.
Higdon overcame six walks to hold the Bronchos to two runs on four hits over 6.2 innings. He struck out four.
“He struggled a little bit,” Criswell said. “Again, two pitchers this week didn’t have their A game, but Seth came out and competed with his B game and we played good enough defense behind him.”
Aspeitia (6-3) took a hard-luck loss after allowing three runs on three hits over 7.2 innings. He had a season-high eight strikeouts while walking three and hitting two batters.
“We couldn’t ask for a better outing from him,” Couch said. “To go seven innings and get it to extra innings, only allowing those two runs, he battled. He was confident up there and did great.”
Permian’s Noey Brito, who gave up the game-tying hit in the seventh, got the win with 1.1 innings in relief of Higdon. After allowing hits to his first two batters, Brito (4-1) retired the last four.
“Noey has a quiet confidence about him,” Criswell said. “He’s a competitor. He comes off as shy, but he’s got a little bit of toughness in him.”
Permian got on the board in the third when Brito led off with a walk and scored on Caden Bedrick’s two-out double. Odessa High answered in the fourth as Bo J. Martinez walked and Hervey Nieto tripled. Nieto finished 2 for 4 with a double and a triple.
The Panthers regained the lead in the sixth on Aleck Villa’s two-out single, but Odessa High tied it on Jacob Munoz’s two-out single in the seventh. The Bronchos were down to their last out when Gibrian Pena singled to left and went to third on an error. Munoz greeted Brito with a single and Martinez added another hit before Brito got out of the inning.
In the eighth, Adams doubled with two outs to end Aspeitia’s outing. Sullivan then poked a 1-1 curveball from Cristian Baeza into shallow left to drive in pinch runner Christian LaChance.
“This team doesn’t give up,” Sullivan said. “It’s all because of them. It’s not me. They put me in that situation and I was able to come through.
“I wasn’t trying to so too much. I just did what I can.”
LaChance, who has been used primarily as a courtesy/pinch runner this season, did his part, as well.
“My job on the team is basically a speedster and a closer,” LaChance said. “They told me to go in there and give it my shot, so I gave it my shot. Rounding third, the wind caught me. At the plate, I had to hook slide because the tag was pretty close.”
Odessa High. 000 100 10 — 2 6 2
Permian……… 001 001 01 — 3 4 2
Damian Aspeitia, Cristian Baeza (8) and Andres Martinez. Seth Higdon, Noey Brito (7) and Taylor Sullivan. W — Brito (4-1). L — Aspeitia (6-3). 2B — Odessa High: Hervey Nieto; Permian: Caden Bedrick, Tanner Adams. 3B — Odessa High: Nieto.
Records — Odessa High 21-8 overall, 7-6 District 2-6A; Permian 19-12, 6-7.
District 2-6A Standings
Team W L W L
y-Wolfforth Frenship…….. 26 4 11 2
x-Odessa High……………. 21 8 7 6
x-Midland Lee…………….. 16 12 7 6
Permian……………………… 19 12 6 7
Midland High………………. 17 15 4 9
Amarillo Tascosa………… 11 19 4 9
x-clinched playoff berth; y-clinched district championship
Wolfforth Frenship 10, Midland Lee 1
Odessa High at Permian, ppd., wind
Amarillo Tascosa at Midland High, ppd., wind
Midland High 5, Amarillo Tascosa 4
Permian 3, Odessa High 2, 8 innings
Odessa High at Midland Lee, 4:30 p.m.
Amarillo Tascosa at Permian, 4:30 p.m.
Wolfforth Frenship at Midland High, 4:30 p.m.