State bound: AHS uses another huge start to beat Aledo, reach Class 5A state tourney
Amarillo High celebrates after beating Aledo 8-1 In Game 3 of the Region I-5A final Saturday at Christensen Stadium in Midland. [Michael Bauer/ For Press Pass Sports] MIDLAND— The Amarillo High Sandies repeated the opening scene of a script they wrote a day earlier in Saturday afternoon’s game three of their Class 5A region final series against Aledo at Christensen Stadium.
Again, it resulted in a happy ending – and another trip to the state tournament in Round Rock.
For the second straight day, the No. 6 Sandies knocked out Aledo’s starting pitcher with five runs in the first inning and sent 10 batters to the plate. And for the second straight day it set the tone for victory, as Amarillo High rolled to an 8-1 victory in the decisive game of the best-of-three series with Aledo.
That put Amarillo High (33-9) in next week’s 5A state semifinals at Round Rock’s Dell Diamond as the Region I-5A representative at either 4 or 7 p.m. against an opponent to be determined.
Whoever plays the Sandies next at Round Rock better not take their sweet time to get going. Aledo (30-11-2) found that out the hard way.
“I love the fast start,” AHS coach Randon Johnson said. “What I loved to see today is we put three more out there from the second inning on. We didn’t just stop in the first inning and found a way to keep extending put there. It just puts more pressure on, and the more we do that the more it allows our guys to just make plays and start counting outs.”
Unlike Friday’s 6-3 win to tie the series, there wasn’t a signature early hit which left a mark on the game, like the grand slam by Cayden Phillips which got the Sandies on the board that day. Amarillo High’s attack was more steady, like water torture.
With one out in the bottom of the first, Bryson Slaughter singled off Aledo starter Adrian Guzman, and the Sandies did load the bases again as Davien Berry and Phillips drew back-to-back walks.
It wasn’t nearly as dramatic, but Tristan Curless then came up and delivered. Curless drilled a two-run single to right to make it 2-0, and the Sandies never looked back.
“We knew that we would have to get up or else (Aledo) would bring in their dude,” said Curless, likely referring to Aledo right-hander Hunter Rudel, who beat the Sandies 2-1 in game one Thursday. “That was a big key point for us getting runs early and we were able to do that. The way we were able to just hold on to that lead and keep on adding, the energy and that feeling was just crazy.”
Amarillo High celebrates with the Region I-5A trophy. [Michael Bauer/ For Press Pass Sports]
Jett Johnston drove in a run with a groundout and Will Franklin followed with an RBI single which chased Guzman. Two batters, Nate Vaws singled off reliever Luke Paulsen to make it 5-0 and then Paulsen was pulled.
Johnston started for Amarillo High and while he had some shaky moments, he did enough to stay in the game. In the first two innings, Johnston stranded seven Aledo baserunners and gave up an unearned run in the fourth.
But with two runners on base and the Bearcats threatening to make it a game in the fourth, the sophomore right-hander struck out Nolan Garcia and Zach Harrison to end the inning, and left the game six strikeouts and gave up only three hits.
“That’s what were about on the mound is just gutting it out and finding a way to get it done,” Johnson said. “I just can’t say how proud I am of Jett and the way he came out and just continued to fight all the way through.”
Johnston left after crossing the 90-pitch threshold after four and gave way to senior right-hander Jacob Ferro, who pitched three scoreless innings to earn the save.
“I was going four or five the whole way, I wasn’t aiming for a whole game,” Johnston said. “I was going just to do my part and hand it over to “The Reliable”, Jacob Ferro. I was just going to make the most of my outs for sure. I wasn’t trying to strike everybody out.”
Phillips did have another big hit in the game which resulted in two runs, although it wasn’t conventional. After Aledo reliever Creed Willems walked Berry in the second, Phillips hit a liner to deep right center which looked catchable and Berry held up, but with Phillips on his tail, Berry had to run and the ball fell, leading to a madcap sprint around the bases.
A relay throw home to nail Berry bounced away, allowing Phillips to come all the way home with a triple and an error, giving the Sandies a 7-0 lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, Will Maynard put an exclamation point on the win with solo homer to left field. Ferro then recorded a 1-2-3 seventh to send the Sandies to state, where they last went in 2016 when they competed in Class 6A.
“It’s not just one guy,” Johnson said. “Sometimes it might be one guy making a play which puts us over the top, but man, what a team performance when you absolutely had to have it in game three up and down the lineup.”
Amarillo High 8, Aledo 1
Aledo 000 100 0 – 1 5 1
Amarillo High 520 001 x – 8 10 2
Adrian Guzman, Luke Paulsen (1), Jaxon Simmons (1), Creed Willems (2), Eliot Flaherty (6) and Willems, Estevan Flores (2). Jett Johnston, Jacob Ferro (5) and Cayden Phillips. W – Johnston. L – Guzman. S – Ferro. 2B – Aledo: Max Belyeu. 3B – AHS: Davien Berry, Phillips. HR – AHS: Will Maynard. Records: Amarillo High 33-9, Aledo 30-11-2.