Randall players hoist the Class 5A area championship trophy after defeating Canutillo 4-2 in Game 2 Saturday at Mustang Field in Andrews. [Michael Bauer/ For Press Pass Sports]
By Michael Baur
For Press Pass Sports
ANDREWS— It may not have been as easy as Game 1, but a win is a win and the Randall baseball team will gladly take it as they advance to the regional quarterfinals of the Class 5A state playoffs.
The Raiders finished up their sweep of Canutillo in the area round with a come-from-behind 4-2 victory in Game 2 over the Eagles Saturday at Mustang Field in Andrews.
“I told my guys after this game that these are the kind of games that make us better in the long run because from here on out, every game is going to be a close one-run or two-run game,” Randall head coach Cory Hamilton said. “You just have to lock in and try to make the best out of it.”
Randall, which moved to 22-13-1 for the season, made it look easy in Friday’s game, recording a 12-0 shutout win.
However, on Saturday, the Raiders had to sweat it out a little bit, as the Eagles (17-6-1) used a strong start in the game and took a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
Randall responded with two runs in the bottom of the third inning and then two more in the bottom of the sixth with Mason Ladd’s two RBI double, scoring his teammates Taylor McDaniel and Hayden Smith to break the deadlock.
The Raiders finished with three hits while Canutillo had four hits and two errors.
“It was a very well-played game,” Canutillo head coach Armando Almanza said. “Yesterday was a one-sided game but this one was very competitive. It didn’t go our way.”
In the top of the first inning, Canutillo’s Sebastian Aguilera doubled to center field and soon after, Joseph Almanza’s RBI double to center field scored his teammate for the early 1-0 lead.
“My guys came ready to play,” Armando Almanza said. “They woke up, feeling good. Randall is a good team, but our guys were ready. We gave it our best.”
The Raiders couldn’t get a hit for the first two innings as Canutillo’s pitcher Isaiah Arteaga showed his strength on the mound, pitching the entire game and striking out seven for the afternoon.
Randall’s Payton Bush would get the win as he struck out five for the day and pitched the entire game.
It was the second consecutive week in which he played in the elimination game, doing likewise in last week’s bi-district round.
“He eliminated Lubbock Coronado last Saturday which was huge and then he comes in and eliminates a fiery, competitive, good team in Canutillo,” Hamilton said. “I thought their pitcher was unbelievable and for Payton to beat Zach was a testament to how he threw today.”
The Raiders eventually woke up and responded with two runs in the bottom of the third.
Randall’s Preston Lowe singled to center field before MJ Cepeda brought him home with his RBI double to far right field to tie the game up.
Cepeda soon stole third base and scored on an outfield error to put the Raiders in front.
“Momentum is everything in the playoffs and when they had the early momentum, they were sitting in a pretty good situation so overcoming momentum and getting it back on to your side is difficult to do but it says a lot about your team when you do it,” Hamilton said.
Both teams were kept scoreless for the next two innings as both pitchers continued their strong performance.
“I knew they could smash the ball so I was just throwing strikes and then my defense worked and I trusted them,” Bush said.
In the top of the sixth inning, the Eagles had another response as Isaiah Arteaga was walked and soon after made his way to second on a steal before advancing to third. Joseph Almanza singled to centerfield for the RBI and for the game-tying score.
However, the Raiders weren’t done as Smith was walked and then McDaniel singled before reaching second on an error.
Facing two outs, Ladd wouldn’t disappoint and would score both of his teammates with his hit.
“Right before Mason’s at-bat, everyone’s fired up,” Hamilton said. “Both teams are energetic and I asked him if he was feeling it, and he said ‘coach, I got it.’ and he stepped in and hit a double and that was the difference.”
Ladd was able to keep his composure as he knew he had to make something happen on the first pitch.
“They called a mound visit so I’m just thinking I have to jump on the first pitch because he likes to get ahead on the pitch count so I was thinking jump on the first pitch and get a run,” Ladd said.
Smith, McDaniel Cepeda and Preston Lowe each had one hit for the Raiders while Joseph Almanza had two and Aguilera had one.
“We carry a lot of guys on this team and there were 27 of them that traveled with us and the majority of them have 35 at-bats on the year so they’ve been in situations like this,” Hamilton said. “In a year like this where there’s a lot that’s been going on, the more depth you have is only a benefit.”
Randall will next face Abilene Wylie (23-7) in the regional quarterfinals with the time and date yet to be announced.
In Game 1 Friday in Andrews, Randall took control early, scoring four runs in the first inning and not looking back.
The Raiders added three more in the third inning and one each in the fourth and fifth before putting up three more in the sixth and completing the shutout.
Randall finished the game with 14 hits and four errors while Canutillo only had two hits and three errors.
Dylan Cheyne got the win for the Raiders on the mound, surrendering zero runs on two hits over six innings and struck out two.
Arteaga had a single in the first inning for the Eagles but that was one of the few big moments for Canutillo in the game.
Zack Melendez took the loss for Canutillo, going two 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs on seven hits and striking out four.
Amarillo High routs El Dorado in game three to advance
For the second series in a row, the Amarillo High Sandies had to take it to the limit if they wanted to advance.
And for the second straight series, they outlapped their opponent to win going away.
After losing game two to El Paso El Dorado on Saturday at Pecos to see their area round series get even at a game apiece, the Sandies again had to go to a third game. The results were the same as a week earlier, as they jumped on El Dorado early and cruised to a 12-2 five-inning 10-run mercy rule victory to advance.
Amarillo High (27-8) will face Lubbock-Cooper (30-4) next week in the region quarterfinal at a time and place to be determined.
The Sandies cruised in game one on Friday, winning 14-2 in six innings. Game two was the series anomaly, as El Dorado (18-6) won 5-4 to force the third game.
After tying the series, the Aztecs carried some of that momentum into the decisive game, scoring two runs off AHS starter Jett Johnson to take a 2-0 lead. But that was all they could manage, as the Sandies scored four runs in each of the next three innings to attain the 10-run margin.
Tristian Curless gave the Sandies the lead for good with a two-run triple in the bottom of the first for a 3-2 lead. Curless drove in six runs on the game, and his three-run double in the bottom of the third gave the Sandies their run-rule margin.
Johnston supported his own cause with two hits and drove in three runs.
The Sandies never held the lead in the second game. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Johnston doubled home Brock Ewing to cut the margin to a run, but was left stranded on second.
In Friday’s first game, Will Maynard drove in three runs, and Curless, Jake Maynard and Davien Berry each drove in two runs.
Canyon swept by Clint
A heavyweight went down hard at Monahans, as Canyon, ranked No. 3 in the state and coming off a bidistrict sweep, lost game two to Clint 10-3 and suffered an unthinkable series sweep.
This came one day after a heartbreaking game one loss, when Clint scored in the bottom of the eighth to had Canyon (26-5) a 3-2 loss.
The Eagles took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the third when two runs scored on an error. Clint (15-4) with three in the top of the fifth to retake the lead then Canyon cut it to 4-3 when Jack McKay scored on a wild pitch.
That was it for the Eagles offensively though, a fact which is indicated by them getting only three hits on the day.
It was still a tight game going into the seventh with Clint clinging to a one-run lead. But the Lions put the game away with six runs, capped by Rick Franco’s two-run double.
In the first game, Clint’s Ismael Ortiz drove in the game-winning run with a double.
Denver City stuns Bushland
Bushland saw an unbelievable season come to a disappointing end at the hands of Denver City in the Class 3A area round at Lubbock-Cooper on Saturday afternoon.
After failing to hold on to a 3-0 lead in Friday’s Game 1, seeing the Mustangs rally for a 4-3 win, Bushland forced a decisive Game 3 thanks to lopsided 19-5 victory in Game 2 early Saturday.
However, in the rubber match, Denver City exploded for five runs in the second inning and another five runs in the sixth to end the Falcons fantastic year with a 10-2 win to take the series.
Bushland had won 24 straight and had yet to be defeated entering the series, ending its year 25-2 overall. Denver City improves to 22-7-2, advancing into the regional quarterfinals.
In Saturday’s Game 2, the Falcons jumped all over the Mustangs with an 11-run second inning. Coleman Junell led the way going 2-for-3 that included a double and three RBIs.
But in Game 3, the Bushland bats were silenced pitcher David Escobar. Escobar tossed a complete game scattering six hits, and allowing three earned runs with a pair of K’s.
Wellington makes school history
For the first time in program history the Wellington Skyrockets are headed to the third round of the UIL playoffs.
Wellington accomplished that feat with a pair of 6-3 wins against Ralls in the Class 2A area round Thursday in Childress.
The Skyrockets improve to 16-4 overall, and will await the West Texas High-Smyer winner. The series is tied at 1-1 after Saturday with the third and decisive game set for 5 p.m. Monday at Caprock.
Ralls ends its year at 14-10.
Kayden Valles and Creighton Killian were both strong on the mound for the Skyrockets. In Game 1, Valles threw 6.1 inning allowing three earned runs with seven strikeouts. In Game 2, Killian found his way out of 11 hits thanks to his defense, going 6.2 inning totaling 5 K’s.
At the plate first baseman Mason Folk was clutch combining on a 4-for-7 effort in the sweep, including three RBI singles in Game 1.
Swifts rally back to down Coyotes
After a 4-1 loss Thursday, the No. 3-ranked Nazareth Swifts dug themselves out of a hole with two huge wins to take the Class 1A area round series from No. 5 Borden County on Friday in Levelland.
The Swifts used strong pitching, timely hitting, and their speed on the base paths for a 9-2 win in Game 2, followed by a 10-2 win in Game 3.
Nazareth senior Kaden Cleavinger started on the mound for the Swifts in Friday’s early contest. Cleavinger kept the Coyote offense off balance allowing one earned run in six innings of work.
At the plate, Carson Heiman picked up three RBIs to kickstart the scoring in the 9-2 victory.
In the rubber match, Borden County couldn’t slow down Nazareth as the Swifts swiped an eye-opening 13 bases in Game 3 alone.
Trent Gerber was 3-for-4 with two doubles with four RBIs, and Luke Betzen threw 3.2 innings, giving up two runs to get the win.
Nazareth improves to 19-3 overall, and will now face district foe, Kress in the regional semifinals at a time and place to be determined.
The Swifts beat the Kangaroos (12-6) in three district meetings this season.
Borden County ends its year at 13–1.
Class 5A-2A compiled by Lee Passmore & Kale Steed
H.S. Baseball area round scores
New Home 11, Memphis 0
New Deal 13, Clarendon 3
West Texas (18-3) vs. Smyer (18-5)
Game 1: WT High 6, Smyer 5, (8)
Game 2: Smyer 7, WT High 1
Game 3: 5 p.m. Monday, Caprock