Amarillo High’s Sandler Needham throws a pitch in the bottom of the first inning Thursday against Aledo in Game 1 of the Class 5A Region I final. [Michael Bauer/ For Press Pass Sports]
MIDLAND— The Aledo Bearcats took one step closer to clinching a spot in the UIL Class 5A state baseball tournament with a 2-1 win over Amarillo High Thursday night in Game 1 of the Region 1-5A final at Christensen Stadium.
The Sandies had a 1-0 lead in the second inning but the Bearcats fought back and scored single runs in the third and sixth innings to make the comeback win.
“I think it’s always good to get that first one in the bag, knowing that if tomorrow doesn’t go well, you can always live to fight another day,” Aledo head coach Chad Barry said. “At the same time, I don’t know if there’s much of an advantage. This is not new territory for Amarillo High. They’ll bounce back like the champions that they are. They’ll re-group,”
Aledo (which moved to 30-9-2 for the season) had eight hits and 1 error.
Amarillo High (31-9) had seven hits and two errors.
“It was exactly what you would expect,” Amarillo High head coach Randon Johnson said. “It seemed like this game was only an hour and 45 minutes. Guys on the mound competed. There were only a few opportunities out there and they just made one more of their opportunities than we did.”
Jett Johnston had two hits for the Sandies while Will Franklin, Jake Maynard, Bryson Slaughter, Will Maynard and Nathan Haws each had one.
Sandler Needham was the starting pitcher for the Sandies and played the entire game, striking out two.
Hunter Rudel took the win for the Bearcats, pitching six innings before Creed Willems finished up in the seventh. Both finished with two strikeouts each.
“It was a competitive game,” Barry said. “It was a pitchers’ duel. I thought Sandler did a phenomenal job. He competed well. Luckily, we were able to get a lead in the sixth inning and it worked out well for us tonight.”
After a scoreless first inning, the Sandies were able to get on the board with an RBI single by Will Maynard to score Jett Johnston in the top of the second inning.
Aledo’s Adrian Guzman singled in the bottom half of the second inning before Kevin Taylor singled to center field. However, the Bearcats were unable to make anything of the opportunity and the Sandies pitcher Sandler Needham got the visitors out of a jam.
Amarillo High was unable to add to its advantage in the third inning.
In the bottom of the third, the Bearcats were able to get load the bases which led to their first run of the game.
Parker Stegall was walked and Creed Willems singled to center field. Nolan Garcia then singled to the exact same spot and the bases were loaded with one out.
Zach Harrison’s sacrifice to left field scored Stegall for the tying run.
Guzman then got out to end the inning with both teams at 1-1.
The Sandies couldn’t respond in the fourth and the Bearcats were held without a run in the bottom half of the frame with only a Sam Sisk single to show for it.
After another scoreless showing from the Sandies in the top of the fifth, the Bearcats quickly got into a two-out situation. Garcia singled to get something going but Zach Harrison got out to end the frame.
After two quick outs in the top of the sixth, the Sandies were able to get a runner on first with Will Franklin getting a single to left field. Will Maynard followed it up with a single to left field but was ruled an error on the Bearcats.
Suddenly, the Sandies when Nathan Haws singled and Jake Maynard was next up to bat but couldn’t give the Sandies the run needed as he got out at first.
Aledo then tried to build something up as Kevin Taylor singled to right field and was replaced by David Jones as a courtesy runner in the bottom of the sixth.
The Bearcats wouldn’t disappoint as Sam Sisk singled to center field and then Owen Belyeu scored his teammate Jones to give Aledo the 2-1 lead.
Taylor and Sisk each finished with two hits for the Bearcats.
Aledo then put in Willems as the pitcher at the top of the seventh and didn’t allow anything past him to give his team the advantage heading into Friday.
Both teams will resume their series with Game 2 at 2 p.m. Friday at Christensen Stadium.