EARLY — The District 7-3A baseball champion Early Longhorns concluded an undefeated run through league play Saturday afternoon.
Coasting through the first six frames, the Longhorns overcame a shaky top of the seventh en route to a 9-7 triumph over the Brady Bulldogs to wrap up the regular season. Early posted a 15-5 record during the regular season, including a flawless 8-0 mark against 7-3A competition.
“It’s nice to be undefeated in anything and I’m proud of them for making statement,” said Early head coach Blake Sandford. “What we set as our goal was to win district, then as we were going along we set our goal to sweep the district. We were able to do that against some mighty good teams, some well-coached teams. The kids worked hard and did everything that I asked them to do. I’m extremely proud of what they’ve done.”
Trailing 1-0 after one inning, Early jumped in front with a pair of runs in the bottom of the second, then seized control with a four-run third. The Longhorns tacked on two more runs in the fourth and an additional run in the sixth to build a 9-1 cushion.
But three hit batters, three errors, two walks and a pair of base hits in the top of the seventh allowed Brady (4-4 in district) to pull within two runs before the final out was recorded.
“We were just trying to work some other pitchers in and lost a little focus, but other than that I thought we played pretty dang good,” Sandford said in regard to the final inning.
The Longhorns finished with 11 hits, including four doubles from Tristan Horton, who drove in a team-high six RBIs. Grant Fanara contributed a home run, while Nick Alcorta generated two hits, including a double. Singles belonged to Abel Hernandez, Cojo Guidry, Christopher Johnston and Christian Alcorta.
“Tristan’s got a solid stroke and he’s starting to get hot at the right time,” Sandford said. “And Grant’s been one of our leading hitters all year. When he gets going the rest of our bats usually get going, too.”
On the mound, Johnston worked the first 4.2 innings and yielded one run on two hits with eight strikeouts and one walk. Cody Jones worked 1.1 perfect innings of relief, while Guidry yielded six runs on one hit with two walks and one strikeout in two-thirds of an inning. Nick Alcorta recorded the final out on a strikeout, but also hit a batter.
“Chris had the game under control and could have gone longer,” Sandford said. “I felt like this time of the year, in this game, we wanted to use as many pitchers as we could to get them ready for the playoffs.”
Brady’s 1-0 lead in the first was the result of Joe Scott Pace being hit by a pitch, then stealing second base ahead of an RBI single by Weston Bauer.
Early surged in front in the bottom of the second as Alcorta doubled over the right fielder’s head and Christian Alcorta walked, then Horton drove them both home with a two-RBI double over the left fielder’s head.
Fanara led off the Longhorn third inning with a solo home run to left field, then Guidry and Nick Alcorta reached on back-to-back dropped fly balls, with the second miscue allowing Guidry to score. Following a Johnston walk, Christian Alcorta singled home the third run of the frame and Horton followed an with RBI double to right-center field.
Leading 6-1 heading to the bottom of the fourth, Nick Alcorta and Johnston reached on consecutive one-out singles. With two outs, Horton lashed another two-RBI double to the left-center field gap.
The Longhorns tacked on their final run in the sixth as Nick Alcorta reached on a fielder’s choice and scored on an RBI double down the first base line by Horton.
Trailing by eight runs, Brady made the top of the seventh extremely interesting.
Isaac Ortega reached on the first Early error of the contest. Then, with one out, Lane Coleman was hit by a pitch. Landon Schwertner followed with a single that, coupled with an error in the outfield, allowed both base runners to score and trim the deficit to 9-3.
With two outs, Pace reached on the third miscue of the inning, which allowed Schwertner to score. Back-to-back walks by Bauer and Ryan Coffman loaded the bases, and Kirkland Weaver delivered a two-RBI single as Brady crept within 9-6.
Ortega was plunked to again load the bases, then Derek Connell was beaned with the sacks full to drive in the seventh Bulldog run. With the sacks still full, Nick Alcorta was able to strikeout Coleman to preserve the Early victory.