KENNEDALE – The Windthorst Trojans and the Valley Mills Eagles squared off last Friday evening in a series to determine the Region II Class 2A representative to the UIL State Tournament. Both teams came equipped with good hitters and quality pitching. Both teams were determined to win a Region II Championship. Both teams gave everything they had in two hard fought games. In the end it was Valley Mills winning both games and the series with 2 runs in the top of the ninth in Game 1 to win 11-9 and a walk off single in the bottom of the seventh to win 9-8 in Game 2. Due to the extra innings in Game 1, Game 2 was late getting started so the battle went on past midnight.
The Trojans and the Eagles played courageous, determined baseball for 14 innings with the outcome hanging on each pitch or swing of the bat. When the drama was over it was Valley Mills punching a ticket to the UIL State Tournament.
The Trojans finish the year with an impressive 27-6-1 record. An undefeated District 9-2A Championship followed by an exciting playoff run to the Regional Final is a great achievement. Taking a look at the playoff bracket one could see there were only 8 teams left in Class 2A. The team representing Region II, the Valley Mills Eagles, will take the field in the State Tournament knowing they got there after narrowly winning a heavyweight fight.
Game 1 Summary
The Trojans were unable to score any runs against Eagle pitcher Chase Keeton until the fifth inning. Keeton issued three walks in the bottom of the fifth. Sam McQuerry’s two out single scored Zane Hackley, the courtesy runner for Tyler Etheredge. Etheredge drew a lead-off walk. The sole Trojan run at that point did not keep pace with the 9 runs scored by the Eagles. After 5 full innings it was 9-1.
Neither team scored in the sixth. Just when the Eagles thought they would coast to the finish line the Trojan hitters came to life to begin a dramatic comeback. With things well in hand the Valley Mills coach, Keeton’s father, put Cooper Ewing in to get the last three outs. After 8 Trojan runs and two pitching changes Valley View finally got the third out. The game was headed for extra innings with the game tied 9-9.
Hunter Wolf greeted Ewing with a lead-off single followed by an Awtry Blagg run scoring double. Nathan Bales kept thing going with a double. Colton Bates drew a walk. Ewing unable to record an out was replaced by Cory McNair, who hit McQuerry with a pitch allowing
Blagg to score. All of a sudden it was 9-3. Cy Belcher singled to drive in Bales. Now it was 9-4. The Eagle pitcher, McNair, walked the next three batters, Tryston Harding, Kyle Wolf and Fabian Vasquez. Like Ewing, McNair left the mound without getting an out. The new Valley Mills pitcher was Tyler Philipp. He would pitch the next three innings. The score at that point was 9-7. Philipp finally got a ground out, but Harding scored to make it 9-8 with one out. With Kyle Wolf at third base Blagg hit a sacrifice fly to center field to tie the game at 9-9. A ground out ended the inning.
The Trojans started Colton Bates at pitcher. An Eagle three RBI homerun by Cooper Lane topped off 4 runs in the first frame. Valley Mills scored a run in the second, two in the third, and one in the fourth. Bates was relieved by Tyler Etheredge who came in allowing only one run. Etheredge held the powerful Eagle lineup in check to allow the Trojans to make the charge in the bottom of the seventh. Gavin Steinberger came in for the extra innings. He allowed no damage in the eighth inning. After issuing a walk in the top of the ninth Hunter Wolf took the mound. He got a ground out and a fly ball to center hauled in by Blagg. The next three Eagle batters got a single, a walk, and a single to plate 2 runs taking an 11-9 lead.
The Trojans could not answer in the bottom of the ninth. After the dramatic comeback Valley Mills was able to hang on with two extra inning runs to get the win in Game 1.
Game 2 Summary
Cy Belcher was on the mound for Windthorst in Game 2. The first inning Belcher gave up three walks. Two Eagle singles and an error allowed Valley Mills to jump out to a 3-0 lead. Belcher settled in after the opening inning holding the Eagles scoreless over the next four innings. He finished his 5 innings of work with 8 strikeouts. Valley Mills had fast ball pitcher, Elijah Degrate, on the mound in Game 2. He shut out Windthorst for five innings with 11 strikeouts.
The Trojans were able to force Degrate to throw a lot of pitches. He had thrown 107 pitches after 5 innings so the Eagles went back to Tyler Philipp to try to hold the Trojans in check for the next 2 innings. Windthorst scored two runs when Gavin Steinberger drew a lead-off walk followed by a Hunter Wolf single. Awtry Blagg moved them over with a sacrifice bunt. Nathan Bales scored Steinberger with a sacrifice fly. An Eagle error allowed Wolf to score cutting the lead to one.
Valley Mills answered with two runs in the sixth to make it 5-3 after six complete innings. In the top of the seventh the Trojans launched a six run rally. Belcher was hit by a pitch, Fabian Vasquez drew a walk, and Kyle Wolf drew a walk to load the bases. Three singles in a row by Hunter Wolf, Blagg, and Bales allowed 5 runs to score giving the Trojans the lead 7-5. Bales added another run with some good base running as he stole third and home to make it 8-5.
Windthorst was just 3 outs from evening the series to force a third game on Saturday. Hunter Wolf took the mound to try to close things out. A walk and three Eagle singles allowed a run to score. With a 2 run lead Wolf got a strikeout. The Trojans were now one out away from a win with the score 8-6 in their favor. With the bases loaded the umpire called catcher’s interference on Sam McQuerry. The interference call made it 8-7 with the bases loaded. Chase Keeton, the Valley Mills lead-off hitter was 0 for 3 at this point in the contest. Wolf got two strikes on him, but with a 2-2 count he hit a single to drive in 2 runs and a walk-off win at 9-8. Needless to say, the dramatic finish could have gone either way. On this late night it went Valley Mills‘ way.