PLAINVIEW— When two teams take turns ending the other’s long winning streak in two tight games which typify playoff intensity, it can come down to who has the last big inning.
Unfortunately for the Randall Raiders on Saturday afternoon, that was the No. 2 Lubbock Cooper Pirates.
After a pair of close games which were decided after the sixth inning, Randall and Cooper clashed in the third and decisive game of their best-of-three Class 5A region quarterfinal series at Wilder Park. Cooper scored six runs in the first two innings to put the Raiders in a deep hole from which they never recovered, as Randall fell 9-1 and saw its season end with a 2-1 series loss.
The final game was a stark contrast to the first two games of the series, as Randall (27-9) won Thursday’s first game 5-3 (ending Cooper’s 24-game winning streak) and Cooper (29-7) won Friday’s second game 4-3 in eight innings (ending Randall’s 18-game winning streak). There were no such dramatics in the rubber match, as the Pirates made the two runs, they scored in the first stand up for the last six innings.
“We were really afraid that whoever got out to the early lead was going to roll momentum into a big day,” Randall coach Cory Hamilton said. “Unfortunately for us it was Lubbock Cooper. They’re a very good baseball team. This is an opponent you would typically see in the regional finals but we get them in the third round of the playoffs and they have a chance to win it all.”
For most of the first two games of the series, offense was at a premium as the pitching staffs were as good as advertised. But in each of the first two innings of game three, Cooper mounted two-out rallies resulting in six runs.
With two outs in the top of the first, Cooper’s Kyler Jordan tripled off the right field wall against Randall starter Jake Scott. Randall’s Andrew Ramos made a wild throw back to the infield, and Jordan came around to score for a 1-0 lead.
Cooper’s next batter, Cutter Douglas, reached on an error, and after a single and a walk loaded the bases, came around to score on a wild pitch for a 2-0 lead.
The Pirates then got five consecutive two-outs in the second. Jordan hit a two-run single to make it 4-0 and after he went to third on a double by Douglas, Scott was pulled for A.J. Lucero. Timothy Haynes greeted Lucero with a two-run single to make it 6-0 and put the Raiders in desperation mode.
“I thought today might be a high-scoring game, but I thought it would be on both sides,” Hamilton said. “Give (Cooper starter Will Qualia) credit because he kept us off balance and we couldn’t get anything going.”
The Raiders managed only three singles off Qualia in six innings and their lone run came on a double play grounder by Kaden Juarez in the sixth with Randall already trailing 9-0. By this point, it was more than obvious that shortstop Kole Dudding was conspicuous by his absence.
Dudding was the hero of game one, as he capped a five-run, two-out rally with a three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth which proved the game winner. However, Dudding, a top hitter in the middle of Randall’s lineup, injured his knee and was on crutches for the final two games, leaving a gaping hole in Randall’s batting order.
“Anytime you take a guy the caliber of Kole Dudding out of the lineup it’s going to hurt,” Hamilton said. “He brings a lot to the table in the batter’s box and defensively. He’s a great baseball player.
“We’ve worked guys at shortstop and in different positions all year long. It’s just unfortunate for him because he’s such a great kid. We would have loved to have him today.”
Indeed, the Raiders had only seven hits in the last two games of the series. Pitching kept them alive in both of those games.
Cooper got to Randall starter Ramos for two runs in the first inning of game two, but Ramos gave up nothing else in his next four innings. The Raiders tied it 2-2 on Mason Ladd’s two-run triple to left in the top of the fourth, then scored an unearned run to take a 3-2 lead the next inning.
Payton Bush, who had taken on the role of closer in the playoffs, came on in the sixth to try to get the final six outs and seal the series. But Cooper got another huge two-out hit, as Kyle Lewis tripled to right to bring home Holt Gibson and tie the game 3-3.
After a scoreless seventh, the game went to extra innings. Gibson, relieving for the Pirates, walked Juarez to lead off the eighth, but struck out the side after that.
Then Gibson led off the bottom of the eighth against Bush and reached when Scott, playing shortstop, made a throwing error. On a 3-2 pitch, Ethan Guerrero lined a double to right to drive home the winning run and force a third game.
“Baseball’s about adversity and hopefully a lot of the lessons the guys have learned the last four years will take them to bigger places in this world and help them be successful,” Hamilton said. “It was two really good teams and you knew one of them was going to lose two out of three and unfortunately we came up on the wrong end of it.”
Canyon rolls over Seminole
Canyon jumped all over Seminole, putting up big first innings in both games to precipitate a sweep, winning 15-1 and 5-0 at Littlefield to reach the region semifinals.
The Eagles (22-8) will face Argyle next week at a time, place and format to be determined.
Seminole (22-12-1) became Canyon’s latest victim in the postseason flight for the Eagles. Canyon has swept all three playoff opponents so far.
In game one, Canyon scored four runs in the bottom of the first and seven in the bottom of the second for an 11-0 lead to set the tone for a five-inning 10-run mercy rule win. Ben Black was 3-for-4 and drove in three runs and Javin Cash was 2-for-4 and drove in four runs. Mason Alley gave up only three hits.
While the second game was more competitive, Canyon’s three runs in the top of the first proved more than enough. Left-hander Black did the rest on the mound, giving up only three hits in a complete-game victory.
Bushland falls to Shallowater
After a stellar season which featured only two regular season losses, Bushland, saw that total equaled against an accomplished Shallowater team, who swept the Falcons.
No. 3 Shallowater won the first game at Sandie Field on Thursday, 14-7, and the second game at Lubbock Cooper on Friday, 7-3, to end Bushland’s season. The Falcons finished the year 23-4.
Bushland led twice in game one and didn’t lead at all in the final 10 innings of the series. Shallowater (31-1-1) erased a 5-3 lead in game one with six runs in the top of the fifth to grab momentum in the series.
In the second game, Shallowater took a 4-1 lead but Bushland cut it to 4-3 in the top of the sixth. However, the Mustangs scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to clinch it and advance to the region semifinals.
Clarendon rallies past Lockney
The Clarendon Broncos are headed to the Class 2A regional semifinal finals for the first time since 2016.
After falling in Friday’s regional quarterfinal opener to Lockney, 9-1, the Broncos made a complete 180 on Saturday with dominant pitching to nab 9-1 and 6-0 victories to advance.
During Saturday’s Game 2, sophomore hurler Harrison Howard handcuffed the Longhorns. Howard tossed six strong innings giving up only two hits with six strikeouts. That was more than enough as Howard’s offense took advantage of four Lockney errors and used a big effort from Easton Frausto. Frausto went 3-for-4 at the plate with three RBIs.
In the third and decisive contest, Clarendon head coach Yancy Molloy went with Howard for two more innings until his pitch count was up. Howard worked 2.2 scoreless with a K, giving him eight innings of work allowing one run on the day. Clarendon opened the game up in the bottom of the fourth. First baseman Bryce Hatley ended the game 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI.
The Broncos (21-5) are now headed to the regional semifinals for a matchup with Albany at a time and place to be determined.
Nazareth stays perfect
Nazareth continued its impressive season with a pair of shutout wins in the Class 1A regional semifinals in Plainview on Thursday.
The Swifts blanked Kress, 3-0, in Game 1, followed by a 10-0 run-rule victory to complete the sweep.
Trent Gerber was dominant once again like he’s been all season for the Swifts. The near unhittable senior threw a no-hitter in the early contest Thursday. Gerber not only held Kress without a hit, but he also racked up an eye-opening 14 strikeouts.
Not to be outdone teammate Carson Heiman took the bump in the second game and the Kangaroos had a hard time figuring him out. Heiman went six strong innings during the run-rule victory scattering two hits with 10 K’s.
At the plate, Luke Schulte was a combined 4-for-8 in the series scoring three runs. Gerber added a double and four RBIs in the Game 2 win.
Nazareth remains unbeaten on the year at 18-0 overall. The Swifts advance to the Class 1A regional finals for a second straight year but will play another undefeated team in Ira (22-0 overall) with the first of a best-of-three series starting at 7 p.m. Friday at Lubbock-Cooper High School.