BOKCHITO – As you would expect in a district tournament showdown between two teams deserving of advancing to regionals, seven innings was not enough on Thursday night.
It took eight innings before Calera was able to prevail 7-6 over Rock Creek in a Class A baseball thriller that essentially is game one of a best-of-three series.
Each team easily dispatched Colbert earlier in the day on Thursday to set up the expected battle. Calera was an 8-0 victor over the Leopards while Rock Creek prevailed 8-1.
The two teams will square off again this afternoon starting at 1 p.m. with Calera needing just one win to advance while Rock Creek will need to win twice.
Calera 7, Rock Creek 6
If you saw these battle toe-to-toe in an earlier meeting, won by Rock Creek in the final inning a tight nip-and-tuck affair was not a surprise.
Calera had a chance to put it away in regulation before a game-tying two-run homer by Davis Rogers in the seventh knotted the score at 6-all.
The Bulldogs put together a pair of hits in the eighth to plate a run and Rock Creek was unable to answer even though the Mustangs got the tying run to third in the bottom of the frame.
“This is just how it is when these two teams play,” Calera head coach Ricky Teafatiller said afterward. “We are evenly matched teams that shouldn’t have to face each other in districts, but that’s what the OSSAA says so it is what it is.
“I think it’s going to come down the same way tomorrow (Friday). Whoever scores last is probably going to win and advance.”
Calera got a solid effort on the mound from senior Shawn Harper, who obviously did not have his best stuff and labored at times. The righthander, however, was able to work himself out of several jams while going seven innings on 128 pitches. He scattered eight hits and struck out eight while picking up the victory as Chase Hamilition notched the save in one frame of relief.
Harper helped his own cause in the very first inning. Cooper Hamiltion drove a single to left on the first pitch of the game and two batters later Harper smashed an offering over the scoreboard in right for a quick 2-0 lead.
Rock Creek answered one frame later as Garrett Schafer opened with a single and Austin Montgomery reached when the Bulldogs misplayed a terrific sacrifice bunt. Luke Jestis then laced a two-run single to left to tie the game.
Calera countered again in the fourth with another two-spot, loading the bases with nobody out against Rock Creek starter Christian McGowen. Rylan Neal and Cooper Hamiltion each provided RBI singles but McGowen was able to pitch out of trouble, aided by a defense that recorded two outs at the plate during the inning.
The hosts soon tied the game again after Sam Roper doubled in front of consecutive walks to McGowen and Josh Eiler. Noe Alaniz reached on a sharply hit grounder in which Calera made back-to-back errors.
Calera broke the deadlock in the sixth, capitalizing on a pair of Rock Creek miscues as well as hits from Tristen Corbin and Cooper Hamiltion. Rock Creek coach Kyle Wingfield then brought in Eiler with two outs and the bases loaded and he fanned two straight Bulldogs to end the inning.
Down 6-4 and down to their final three outs in the seventh, the Mustangs got a leadoff single by Alaniz and Davis Rogers followed with a towering home run over the leftfield wall.
In the eighth the Bulldogs broke on top for good as Luke Weddle reached on a bloop single to right, moved to second on Harper’s sharp single up the middle before scoring after a ground out and wild pitch.
After a strikeout to start the bottom of the eighth, Rock Creek found life when a ground ball from McGowen ricocheted off the bag at first and was misplayed into a double. He made it to third on a close throw after a wild pitch but Chase Hamilition was able to pick up a strikeout and then force Rogers to hit into a fielder’s choice to end it.
“It comes down to making plays and we just didn’t make enough today,” Wingfield said. “We had a lot of opportunities with runners in scoring position and guys we want at the plate but missed on too many of those. Just have to do better on Friday.
“These two teams shouldn’t be paired in district but that’s how the state rankings work. We just have to make the best of it and try to win two tomorrow (Friday).”
Calera 8, Colbert 0
The Bulldogs ended it early on the run rule behind a strong mound effort from Tristen Corbin, who yielded just two hits and struck out six in five innings.
Harper’s two-run homer in the first got Calera going and the Bulldogs opened it up in the fifth with a Weddle RBI double and three-run double off the bat of Zack Manyard.
Cooper Hamiltion chipped in a run-scoring single in the sixth.
Colbert finished with just two hits, both coming from Ronnie Rickman.
Rock Creek 8, Colbert 1
A complete game pitching performance from Garrett Schafer spurred the Mustangs to the opening win as the righthander scattered five hits and struck out seven.
Colbert opened the scoring with a run in the first as Ronnie Rickman singled and came around to score, but that proved to be all for the Leopards.
Rock Creek quickly countered getting a single by Josh Eiler with two outs ahead of a Noe Alaniz RBI double. The Mustangs tacked on another single run in the second as Luke Jestis doubled and scored on Darren Ashby’s single.
The Mustangs pushed across an unearned run in the third on a Davis Rogers sacrifice fly before erupting for three runs in the fourth. Eiler had the key blow with a two-run double and Alaniz chipped in another ribbie with a single.
Eiler and Alaniz finished with three hits and two RBI apiece to pace the Rock Creek charge.
Jared Tucker notched two hits while Rickman, Zach Swindell and Matthew Pinion had one hit each.
Contact Kevin Farr at 580-634-2161 or firstname.lastname@example.org