Amarillo High starter Hadley Cox delivers a pitch during a District 3-5A contest at Randall on Saturday afternoon. [Ben Jenkins/ Press Pass Sports]
By Lee Passmore
Only 24 hours into the District 3-5A baseball season, and the competitive intensity was predictably set during the first installment of the Battle of Bell Street on Saturday afternoon at Randall High.
When Amarillo High made the short trip down Bell to face Randall at Raider Field in a match between two teams with district championship aspirations, it was as tight a game as could be expected. So perhaps it was no surprise that the team who needed it just a bit more came out on top.
After a pitchers’ duel for four innings where neither team crossed home plate, Amarillo High scratched across two runs in the top of the fifth. That proved to be just enough, as the Sandies edged Randall to pick up their first district win of the season.
Amarillo High (8-5, 1-1 in district), coming off a trip to the Class 5A state semifinals last season, opened district play inauspiciously at home a day earlier with a 5-3 loss to Plainview. That served as a motivating factor a day later.
“I think our guys felt just a little bit of pressure,” AHS coach Randon Johnson said. “We took that and turned that around into performing. It’s good to be in those situations early in the year. It gives you a really good indication of what it’s going to be like later on in the year when it’s a win or go home situation.”
Saturday afternoon was a long way from that, but that didn’t make the contest seem any less urgent. Amarillo High starter Hadley Cox and Randall starter Payton Bush put zeros on the scoreboard for the first four innings as only once did a runner get to third base.
The Sandies had managed only an infield single off Bush through four innings and in the fifth, they started things on back-to-back infield singles by Cannon Davis and Jacob Self. However, there were two outs and two on when Connor Haelzle came to the plate.
On a full count, Haelzle looped Bush’s push just in front of Caden Henry in left field for a single to bring home a run. However, Henry misplayed a bad hop, allowing a second run to score for a 2-0 lead, which proved to be huge in this particular game.
“I think a lot of District 3-5A games are going to go that way,” Randall coach Cory Hamilton said. “You’re either going to face somebody whos a 1 or a 2 (in the rotation) so you’re going to be facing good pitching every time out. I thought both guys threw the ball really, really well. The early lead definitely helped with (Amarillo High’s) momentum.”
Randall did answer in the bottom of the fifth with their only run against Cox. Jake Scott hit one-out double (the game’s only extra base hit) and scored one pitch later on a single to left by Andrew Ramos to cut it to 2-1.
The Sandies got some insurance in the top of the sixth when Self hit the third of three straight singles off Randall reliever Carson Haffner to score Zach Swinney and make it 3-1.
Randall made it interesting with one out in the bottom of the seventh when Cox issued back-to-back walks to Scott and Danny Harrington to put the tying run on base. But left-hander Sawyer Shipman came on and struck out Caden Juarez and Hagen Shedd to preserve the win.
Cox wasn’t overpowering but he got a lot of crucial outs in scattering six hits.
“We kind of bent but didn’t break a couple of times when they got runners in scoring position,” Johnson said. “Every time Hadley came up big. We had guys who made plays. It’s high school baseball, making one more play than they do. We had a guy we knew was going to throw a lot of strikes and he peppered the zone all day.”
Pitching also appears to be a strong point for Randall (9-7, 1-1), who opened district by throwing nine straight scoreless innings. The Raiders beat Palo Duro 10-0 in five innings in the district opener Friday.
“We really try to hang our hat on pitching and defense,” Hamilton said. “I think we have more depth on the mound than we’ve probably had in the last 10 years. There’s a lot of options out there and In thought every guy who went out there did a good job for us today, but Amarillo High’s a good baseball team and they capitalized.”
Davis and Self both had two hits for Amarillo High.
Amarillo High 000 021 0 – 3 7 0
Randall 000 010 0 – 1 6 1
Hadley Cox, Sawyer Shipman (7) and Braize Mitchell. Payton Bush, Carson Haffner (6), Hagen Shedd (7) and Mason Ladd. W— Cox. L— Bush. S – Shipman. 2B— Randall: Jake Scott. Records: Amarillo High 8-5, 1-1. Randall 9-7, 1-1.
Tascosa can’t rally against Plainview
Tascosa suffered its first district loss of the season, as the Rebels fell behind early and couldn’t rally in an 8-1 loss at home to Plainview
The Rebels (6-8-2, 1-1) opened district in dramatic fashion on Friday, scoring two runs in the top of the eighth to beat Caprock 5-3. This time, they fell behind Plainview (7-10-1, 2-0) 4-0 in the fifth and never recovered. Brayden Keeter drove in Tascosa’s only run in the sixth.
Tascosa actually outhit Plainview by an 8-7 margin, but the Rebels hurt themselves by leaving eight on base.
Palo Duro edges Caprock
In a matchup of metro teams seeking their first district wins, Palo Duro got in the win column by rallying to beat Caprock 4-3 at Hodgetown.
Caprock took a 3-0 lead in the third but Palo Duro (4-7, 1-1) tied the game with three runs in the bottom of the third and took the lead for good with a run in the fourth.
Leslie Shaw drove in two runs for the Dons and Ruben Zavala threw a complete-game victory on the mound, scattering six hits. Caprock fell to 7-6 and 0-2.
District 3-5A Standings
Teams District Overall
Plainview 2-0 7-10-1
Amarillo High 1-1 8-5
Palo Duro 1-1 4-7
Randall 1-1 9-7
Tascosa 1-1 6-8-2
Caprock 0-2 7-6