For the second straight day Thursday morning, the Nazareth Swifts got caught up in a big-time pitchers’ duel with everything at stake.
Only this time, it left them short of a state championship.
One day after Trent Gerber was brilliant in a three-hit shutout of Kennard in the Class 1A state semifinal, Nazareth got solid enough pitching against D’Hanis in the state championship game at Round Rock’s Dell Diamond. But the Swifts couldn’t touch D’Hanis starter Ryan Hendry, as they managed only three singles, and D’Hanis made a fourth inning run stand up to defeat Nazareth 4-0 and claim the state title.
It was the second straight trip to Round Rock for Nazareth (21-2) and the school’s most successful baseball season ever. However, the championship game loss continued the UIL state title drought for Texas Panhandle schools in baseball, as no area school has brought home a championship since Dumas in 1971.
For three innings, the game mirrored Nazareth’s 1-0 win over Kennard in the state semifinal, when the Swifts scored a run in the bottom of the first and Gerber made it hold up the rest of the way. Nazareth, though, missed an early chance which could have built up some momentum.
With one out in the first, Carson Heiman and Gerber got back-to-back singles, just like they did to start the first inning scoring against Kennard. Gerber’s single to right moved Heiman to third and Gerber took second base on the throw.
Tanner Birkenfeld then flew out to left field, and Heiman was caught off third base and Da’Hanis left fielder Layton Herrmann threw to third base to double up Heiman and end the inning.
Heiman, who got the call on the mound for Naz, matched Hendry with three scoreless innings to open the game. But D’Hanis broke through with two outs in the top of the fourth when Heiman walked Herrmann with the bases loaded to force in a run.
In the bottom of the inning, Heiman led off with a single and advanced to third on a pair of groundouts. But he stayed there when Brett Young, who singled home the game’s lone run the day before, struck out looking.
D’Hanis got to Heiman again in the top of the fifth, as Hendry led off the inning with a double to left. Heiman walked Will Schawe to eventually put runners at the corners, and Heiman was pulled for Gerber, who still had 15 pitches left under the state rule limiting pitchers to 110 pitches a week.
Gerber was mortal this time, giving up RBI singles to Daelyn Gonzales and Raine Redden and a run-scoring groundout to Eusebio Tapia to make it 4-0.
With one out in the top of the fifth, Hendry hit Braden Bullard with a pitch. But Bullard was caught stealing, and Nazareth didn’t mount another serious threat.
After Gerber hit his pitch limit, Luke Schulte relieved, and closed the game with 2 1/3 hitless innings.