EVERMAN - Two great pitching performances by Archer City Wildcat pitchers would almost certainly mean two games in the win column. Having the bases loaded with the winning run at the plate or having the tying run in scoring positions with no outs would almost certainly mean the Cardiac Cats are as usual going to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Unfortunately, last Friday night in the Class 2A Regional II Semifinal series against the Valley Mills Eagles the key hit never came and the two stellar pitching outings did not translate to wins. Valley Mills brought 2 quality pitchers of their own and strung together just enough hits to win Game 1, 3-0, and Game 2, 2-0. The two losses ended a thrilling playoff run by the Wildcats.
Senior, Conner Byrd, pitching the last game of his high school career was on the mound for Archer City in Game 1. Byrd held the Eagles to a single earned run in his 7 innings of work. He struck out 5 allowing only 7 hits. He allowed a run in the top of the second on a single by Caden Collins, the Eagle center fielder. The other two Eagle runs were a result of an error allowing two runs to score with two outs in the top of the seventh.
Offensively in Game 1 the Cats had only 2 hits until the bottom of the seventh. Keagan Beaver beat out an infield grounder in the first inning and Hudson Williams singled to left field in the second. Valley Mills had Chase Keeton on the mound who allowed only four hits while striking out 7 Wildcats.
The other two hits for Archer City in Game 1 came at the most opportune time to set the stage for what might have been another thrilling finish. In the bottom of the seventh inning Morgan Mobley singled sharply to left field followed by a Justin Browning single to right center. Williams drew a walk to load the bases with no outs. Down three runs Wildcat Coach Corbin Brooks had few options. The winning run was at home plate so a squeeze bunt or sacrifice fly option was not going to be enough so he called on the next three batters to hit away. Keeton rose to the occasion to strike out the next two Wildcat batters getting the final out on a fly ball to left field. In Game 1 Archer City left 7 on base. The key hit never materialized.
Sophomore pitcher Justin Browning held the Eagles in Game 2 to only one hit with 7 strikeouts. The only blemish on his seven innings of work was a double by the Valley Mills pitcher, Elijah Degrate, in the bottom of the fourth. A passed ball moved Degrate’s courtesy runner, Jayson Jones, to third. Jones scored when out of the blue the third base umpire declared a balk to advance the runner to the plate. Valley Mills second run was the result of a runner on board due to a Wildcat error who scored on another error on a pickoff attempt. Degrate had given up only 3 hits to the Wildcats until the seventh inning. He was delivering fast balls to the plate in excess of 80 mph.
In the top of the seventh inning Archer City once again made things interesting when Browning hit a single to start the inning. Williams doubled to left to put runners at second and third with no outs. With the tying run at second and the go ahead run at the plate Valley Mills brought Chase Keeton in to save the game. He had enough pitches left based on the pitch count rule to save the day for the Eagles. He got two strikeouts and a grounder to end the game with the tying runs stranded.
Head Coach Corbin Brooks obviously was dejected about the outcome, but he had high praise for his team saying, “We are young and that’s good for us to make a run like this. It helps build maturity and build leadership for next year, but I’m telling you, losing those seniors is going to be rough. It’s going to be tough to replace them. It’s never easy playing your last game, but they gave us everything they have tonight. We got two great starts against a great baseball team. That was the best start I have seen out of Justin Browning all year and Byrd throwing a gem game, you couldn’t ask for better pitching. We held them in check. We gave our offense a chance, but we couldn’t string enough hits together or find the holes. That’s just the way it goes.”
The former Texas Ranger manager, Ron Washington, went viral with a baseball truism with his comment “That’s the way baseball go.” It was a truism not grammatically sound, but it says volumes about the last two games the Wildcats played in 2019. Congratulations Archer City Wildcats on a great season. Wildcat fans will be looking for baseball to go your way next season. See you in 2020.