The Blooming Grove Lions witnessed a five-run lead evaporate over the final two innings, but capitalized on one final opportunity to secure the Texas Teen-Age Baseball Boys 10U Tight Base State Championship.
The Lions scored the decisive run in the bottom of the sixth inning to knock off the Rusk Orioles, 9-8, Friday morning in a rubber match between the two teams. Blooming Grove edged Rusk, 5-4, Wednesday to push the Orioles into the elimination bracket. Rusk avenged the loss with a 5-1 victory in Thursday’s initial championship game, which forced the tournament to linger into Friday.
Knotted at 8 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Blooming Grove’s Elijah Rios — the leadoff batter for the Lions — reached on a dropped pop up. After advancing to second base on a passed ball, Rios scored the winning run when Gabriel Watkins sliced a line drive just inside the right field line.
Blooming Grove opened an 8-3 advantage after four innings, but Rusk refused to wither.
The Orioles closed the gap to 8-6 in the top of the fifth as Brayden Boudreaux reached on a one-out error and later scored when a two-out miscue allowed Latham Moore to board the bases. A double by Jaren Driver set the stage for a two-RBI double from Garrett Brooks, as Rusk trimmed the Blooming Grove lead to a pair of runs.
Rusk relief pitcher Tarrant Sunday retired the Lions in order in the bottom of the fifth, and the Orioles offense was back to work again in the top of the sixth. Brett Rawlinson, Rusk’s top batter in the order, led off with a single to right field, then Bryce Grimes reached on an infield hit. Boudreaux followed with an RBI single up the middle to plate Rawlinson and reduce the deficit to a single run. Boudreaux later scored on a one-out RBI single by Moore, but the Orioles left the go-ahead run stranded.
The Lions dominated play early Friday, a role reversal from Thursday’s encounter in which Rusk never trailed.
Blooming Grove struck for three runs in the bottom of the first inning off Rawlinson, the Rusk starter. Watkins walked and Trenton Nicholson doubled, then both runners came home when Garris Goff reached on a one-out error. Goff later scored on a wild pitch.
The Lions stretched their lead to 4-0 in the second inning as Rios reached on a two-out infield single and scored on an RBI base hit by Nicholson.
Rusk rallied in the top of the third to trim the deficit to 4-3.
Brooks walked, then Joe Reasonover and Mason Trowbridge singled to load the bases with no outs. Rawlinson followed with an RBI sacrifice fly, Grimes drove in a run with an RBI ground out and Boudreaux’s RBI double plated the third run of the frame.
Blooming Grove got a run back in the bottom of third as Devon Hood led off with a single to right field and later crossed the plate on a two-out wild pitch during Bryce Richards’ at-bat.
The Lions appeared to put the game out of reach with three runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Rios reached on an infield single, followed by a fielder’s choice from Watkins, and both scored on Nicholson’s two-RBI single just over second base. Goff then doubled home Nicholson to extend the lead to five runs.
Watkins, Nicholson and Rios pitched for the Lions and struck out five with five walks. Rawlinson, Boudreaux and Sunday worked the mound for Rusk and recorded seven strikeouts with only a pair of walks.