The Big Sandy Wildcats, winners of 27 straight and unbeaten in their classification, fell for the first time to a 2A school, as Muenster claimed its first state championship 6-2 Thursday morning at Dell Diamond.
“It is the greatest season in our school's history for baseball,” Wildcat coach Jacob Hooker said. “We have something to build on and we return seven starters. We will be in the mix next year; it has been fun. We had a five-hour rain delay in the Regional Finals, a walk-off home run in the second round, and beating Bridge City during the year — it has been a great season.”
Clay Stevens led the game off with a double down the third-base line. A one-out single by Blayne Jones drove in a run, the game's first.
A leadoff triple by Bryce Holmes was followed with a one-out double by Austin Hendrix to tie the game at one after an inning of play.
Stevens was again a Wildcat nemesis, singling to left. Kagen Danglemayr followed with the same to put runners on the corners in the third inning. Jones, the tournament MVP, collected his second hit, with a single and RBI, but Broch Holmes threw out Danglemayr when he overran the bag at second. Carson Cheaney singled and Parker McGrew tripled to bring in two more runs. A balk by relief pitcher Broch Holmes on his first windup of the game scored McGrew from third for a 5-1 Hornet lead through three innings.
Aaron Thompson took the first pitch of the bottom half of the fourth inning into left for a base hit. Bryce Holmes doubled to score Thompson, cutting the score to 5-2.
In the top of the final inning, Carson Trubenbach walked after working a full count. Reaching third on a fielder's choice and passed ball, an error at third brought in the sixth Hornet run.
Needing four runs in the bottom of the seventh, Duff singled to chase Hornet hurler Jones from the contest. Hendrix was walked by reliever Sawyer Sanders. Broch Holmes singled to center, loading the bags. Kylie Cox and Thompson each came to the plate representing the potential tying run, but it was not to be.
The Wildcats lose four seniors that leave a legacy at Big Sandy. Graduated seniors include Landon Creel, John Slack, Bryce Holmes and Austin Hendrix.
“I am more proud that we have three seniors going to college and another going to diesel mechanic school,” Hooker said. “That means more to me that all four are going to do something and are improving their education.”
Returning will be eight starters (including designated hitter) that are now veterans of the playoff
“We will see if we can one-up it next year,” the coach said. “We will start in the weight room on day one and get after it.”
A five-run fourth inning has propelled the Big Sandy Wildcats into the state championship game, defeating the Groveton Indians 7-3 Wednesday morning at Dell Diamond in Round Rock.
Falling behind 2-0 in the second inning, Big Sandy took momentum back in the fourth, scoring five times to take a lead that they would not surrender.
All three Indian runs were unearned. Groveton began the scoring in the second inning, when Spenser Pope was hit by a pitch and Saul Chavez bunted. The bunt was taken by Big Sandy catcher Bryce Holmes and thrown to first. The throw deflected off first baseman Anthony Parrish's glove, allowing a run to score and Chavez to slide safely into third. Chance Coker got the second run in with a sacrifice fly in center field.
Groveton appeared to have control of the contest at that point. Through three innings, Indian hurler Glenn Thornton was nearly untouchable.
“We had watched this kid throw and we knew he was going to be throwing hard sliders,” Big Sandy coach Jacob Hooker said. “We haven't seen a real power arm with a real power slider all year, so I knew if we could give up just one or two runs, we would be fine. We knew if we got through the lineup one time, we would start seeing the ball a little bit better. He is good and going to Blinn (Junior College) for a reason. We just wanted to stay within striking distance and we did.”
Down a couple of runs, Wildcat outfielders put the offense in motion. Broch Holmes walked and a double by Kylie Cox brought him in. Cox's fly ball in center field was misplayed, turning Chavez around twice. Holmes slid in home as the relay arrived for the Wildcats' first run.
“I have a center fielder that has been playing lights out all season long,” Groveton coach Wayne Williams said. “He let one get up in the wind and just carry over his head to score one run. A second run scored and I thought we threw the guy out, but that was a game-changer, because after that they rattled off three hits in a row. I told my assistant coach if anyone can get three hits off of a No. 1 pitcher, then they are a good team. We fought to the end and we put up our best effort.”
Aaron Thompson singled to left, leaving runners on the corners. A suicide squeeze by Cody Adams brought in Cox safe at the plate. A base hit then by Garrett Lilley scored Thompson, giving the Wildcats their first lead of the game. With two on in scoring position, Austin Hendrix helped his own cause, singling to center field and plating both. After four innings of play, Big Sandy held a 5-2 advantage.
Phenomenal as always, Austin Hendrix allowed three unearned runs on four hits in seven innings. He struck out eight and walked no one.
“I came out with the mindset that I was going to pitch to contact,” the Wildcat pitcher said. “I wanted to let my defense help me. I really wasn't trying to strike anybody out. I was trying to keep them off-balance and mixing it up. I would throw a fastball to try to get it by them every now and then. We are in the state tournament and everybody can hit, you can't just blow it by them.”
Adams and Lilley each singled to begin the bottom of the sixth, setting up insurance runs for the team from Dallardsville. Bryce Holmes doubled to right, allowing Adams to cross home plate. Brandon Hendrix drove in senior Landon Creel, running for Lilley, giving Big Sandy a five-run advantage.
Trying to mount a comeback in the bottom of the seventh, Indian left fielder Pope beat out an infield single. A sacrifice bunt and throwing error put him on third. A sacrifice fly to left field brought in Pope for the final run.
“It feels great,” Williams said of Groveton making the state tournament for the first time. “I told these kids for a while, we have been a football school. I said that we can do this in baseball also. I told them if they will listen to me, I will get them here. This is my first year here and next year we want to implement more into our offensive system. Defensively, we didn't make any errors, and that's one thing I am proud of. I told the kids that if we don't make errors, it's going to be hard for us to get beat. When you run into a team like (Big Sandy) that can swing the bats, it's a little bit different. They just have a great team and they are well-coached.”
For Groveton, the team ends the season at 31-4, the best record in school history.
“We will lose nine seniors, but I told them we are not going to rebuild, we are just going to reload,” Williams said. “We want to get back here next year. I am just proud for Groveton and I'm proud that we are on the map in baseball. I plan on being here a long time, if they say so. I have loved this game ever since my mom and dad put me in it at four or five years old. I lost my father this year and this team took me on a ride to make me forget about it. It's been a great ride and I've enjoyed it.”
For Big Sandy, a match with Muenster will decide the state championship. First pitch is set for 9 a.m. Stay tuned to www.polkenterprise.com and the Polk County Enterprise Facebook page for results and articles on all the action in Round Rock.
The Big Sandy Wildcats have reached the baseball state tournament by sweeping Thorndale in two games, 3-2 (11 innings) and 5-1 in the Regional Finals.
Over the past two years, wins were never easy versus Thorndale, but Saturday’s largest barrier were storms that moved into the area after the fourth inning. However, the team not only maintained its two-run lead, but improved upon it immediately following the hiatus.
“I am numb. It is the first time in school history and a pretty neat accomplishment,” Big Sandy coach Jacob Hooker said. “I thank coach (and superintendent Eric) Carpenter and coach (and athletic director Kevin) Foster for taking a chance on me — and I'm glad they did. Coach Foster has been to state several times (in basketball), so he understands the grind. Last year we lost on June 3 and I told all those kids out there that we are not going to have a letdown this year. They didn't.”
Bryce Holmes singled down the right field line on the second pitch of the game and Bryan Duff would follow with a single of his own. Austin Hendrix moved both over with a fly out to center. Sophomore Broch Holmes hit a fly ball to the right field gap that center fielder Cory Huber could not run down. Both runners crossed home plate, putting the 'Cats up 2-0 after one.
A single and error in right field set up an RBI-single into left for Ryan Biar, the lone senior on the Thorndale roster.
With a 2-1 lead, Big Sandy left fielder Cody Adams was hit by a pitch and second baseman Garrett Lilley bunted for a single. Austin Hendrix hit a Texas Leaguer to left to bring in the lead runner. After four innings, the Wildcats held a 3-1 advantage.
A flash of lightning in the distance halted the fifth inning from beginning. The two teams discussed moving the game south, before ultimately deciding to wait out the storms until 10 p.m.
After a four hour-rain delay, Broch Holmes, put the game back in motion with his second hit — a double. He would be thrown out at third on a fielder's choice. A walk by Aaron Thompson, who also had a pair of hits, put runners on first and second. Adams collected an infield hit to load the bases. Garrett Lilley slugged a single that scored two, pushing the lead out to 5-1.
The postponement also had no impact on pitcher Bryce Holmes. The senior was arguably better after the break, pumping fastballs by Bulldog hitters and shutting down any plans of offense.
“I went back to the gym right after the delay and kept tossing the ball around and making sure I was staying loose,” Bryce said. “My arm felt good and I told them that I was going back in. I've always just been the type of kid to go out and play without stretching. As I have gotten older, I have to stay active every few minutes, stay on my feet, and keep my blood flowing.”
It worked, as he would finish with six strikeouts and allow just three hits and two walks over seven innings of work on the hill.
The senior performer was not able to compete with the varsity last season, moving in from Woodville.
“It was definitely worth the wait,” Bryce said. “All of the people that put me, my family, and my school down, it was definitely worth the wait. I can't wait to see what we still have in store.”
After making the Regional Finals last season, Big Sandy won Game 1 versus eventual state champion Flatonia. Leading in Game 2, a rain delay seemed to turn momentum in the series. This edition of Wildcat baseball was in no danger of that happening again.
“We sat through a four-hour delay and came out and swung a little bit,” Hooker said. “After those two runs, we got a little content at the plate. To ask Bryce to come back after that long and do what he did — he just said automatically, ‘I'll take it.’ I told him that he is the senior and he took it.”
The team now travels to Round Rock’s Dell Diamond to face Groveton Wednesday at 9 a.m. If successful, they will face the winner of Albany and Muenster at the same time Thursday. Stay tuned to www.polkenterprise.com or the Polk County Enterprise Facebook page for updates scores and the latest on all Big Sandy baseball.
“We are blessed is all I can say,” senior Austin Hendrix said of his team. “Last year, we had a really good run and I miss those guys. This year, our coach told us that we have the talent and we can do it, it is all about heart. This year's team is almost the same. Those seniors last year didn't want to give up either, but this year these kids have worked really hard. They are going to have a good run the next two or three years. Now we are here, headed to Round Rock.”
For the first time in school history, the Big Sandy Wildcats are going to the state baseball tournament in Round Rock after a victory against Thorndale in Regional Finals. The Wildcats won 3-2 in 11 innings on Thursday and 5-1 on Saturday after a four-hour rain delay. Big Sandy will play Wednesday at 9 a.m. against Groveton. Albany and Muenster will be competing at noon. The winners of each game will face each other for the state title.
Big Sandy’s season has ended, as the local Area champions did not have an answer for the speed and defense of the Italy Gladiators in a 56-37 game at Centerville’s Tiger Gymnasium.
“I thought their quickness really hurt us,” Big Sandy coach Kevin Foster said after the game. “The pace of the game was honestly how he wanted it, with the exception of the times we turned it over, we struggled to score more than I thought we would. I thought we would be able to score more in the half-court against them and we missed a lot of easy ones and played uncharacteristic of how we’re capable. I think their quickness had a lot to do with that.”
The Wildcats left with shooting hands a little warm the last time they were in Tiger Gymnasium about a month ago, having made 17 3-pointers in a district match with Centerville.
Their fortunes seemed to have run out, as the rims were not as kind Tuesday. Getting back on defense and setting up full-court pressure left Big Sandy without a transition game and playing half-court basketball. Italy took away big chunks of momentum and points from the Big Sandy attack.
A sloppy game early, the Wildcats did not get a shot off for two minutes. Neither team could control the ball with several turnovers by both.
Down 7-2, Cole Foster entered off the bench and drilled a three from the wing with 2:38 to go in the first. An Aaron Thompson free throw would be all the scoring the rest of the period. After one, the ‘Cats trailed 7-6. Keith Davis II scored all seven for the Gladiators.
Two Italy 3-pointers to begin the second had Kevin Foster calling for time out with 6:46 to play in the half. Another from long range had them up 16-6.
Aaron Thompson and Britton Dickens hit layups, but Italy seemed throw the press at Big Sandy in waves. The small, but quick guards were no larger than 5’8” and all four maintained pressure on the ball, waiting for errant passes — of which the Wildcats had more than usual. Fundamental lapses and getting out-hustled for balls — what is normally seen from Big Sandy opponents — allowed Italy to command the second quarter. A three in the waning seconds from Samuel Richard brought the game to 27-16 at the locker room break.
“I think some of it was nerves but we were not smooth tonight,” the coach said. “We never got in any sort of rhythm offensively and I attribute that to their quickness. They did a good job and they disrupted everything we wanted to do offensively.”
At half, Davis II had 12 points and Kevin Johnson had eight (all second quarter). Richard was tops on the Wildcats with five.
Down 33-19, the Thompsons — Isaiah and Aaron — each hit a 3-pointer and Richard converted a three-point play to help bring Big Sandy back. The Wildcats held their opponents to just 10 points in the quarter, scoring 14 themselves. At the end of three quarters, Italy led 37-30, but it was a contested game once more.
Unfortunately for the Dallardsville group, the fourth quarter was their toughest. Shots were scarce, as the Gladiators held the ball to drain the clock. As had been the case most of the game, shots were not falling for the ‘Cats. Italy took advantage of a team that could not get into a flow on offense or start their transition game because of the on-ball pressure.
Davis II scored seven of his 21 in the quarter and Tylan Wallace emerged to get six of his 10 for the game, matching teammate Johnson’s 10 points.
Richard, who had 15 points for the game, attempted to carry Big Sandy with ball handling, penetration and shooting. But team turnovers and Italy pressure were again the Wildcats’ downfall. Aaron Thompson was second on the team with nine points.
“To lose 10 seniors, basically have only one guy back, have JV and junior high kids, and to make it to the third round — if you would have told me that, I’m not so sure I would have believed you. But I would have taken it. It hurts to get to this point, because you’re so close to a regional tournament, but it is experience you can’t get anywhere else.
“We have everybody back next year and even though we didn’t play well, maybe we can learn from it. I was disappointed in the result, but overall, I am proud of them. Hopefully we can take this and because we have everybody back, we have a chance to be really good next year. We need to take how this feels and use it as a motivation for next year. We need to remember this feeling and commit ourselves to working. Life is full of disappointments and it is how you react to it that makes you who you are.”
LEGGETT AND BIG SANDY PLAYOFF ACTION: The Leggett Pirates will play against the Waelder Wildcats, Tuesday at Navasota, starting at 6 p.m. The Big Sandy Wildcats will face the Italy Gladiators, Tuesday at Centerville, starting at 7:30 p.m.