EARLY — Clinging to a one-run advantage heading to the bottom of the fifth inning, the Early Longhorns scored eight runs in their final two trips at the plate to pull away for an 11-4 home victory over the Bangs Dragons Friday afternoon in District 6-3A baseball action.
Early was able to bounce back from a 5-4 loss at Cisco earlier in the week, while Bangs suffered its first league setback after a district-opening 3-2 victory over Coleman.
“This was a big win,” Early head coach Todd Hatton said of the Longhorns’ first 6-3A triumph. “We knew it was going to be a tough game on the road at Cisco and we came close, but it was good to see our kids bounce back. Playing over spring break is always scary, but I was proud of our kids for playing two solid games over spring break. That’s hard to do sometimes, but I was proud of their focus and effort and getting the job done today.”
Up by a run heading to the bottom of the fifth, Early began the frame with consecutive walks by David Shields and Boston Hudson. With one out, Jonathan Morales delivered an RBI double to right field that plated Shields and stretched the Longhorn lead to 4-2. Jesson Tarrant then drove in Hudson and Morales with a two-RBI double off the left field fence, increasing the Early advantage to 6-2.
The Dragons got a run back in the top of the sixth as Wesley Mitchell and Ethan Sanchez walked, while Austin Hall was hit by a pitch to load the bases with one out. Eli Carbajal plated Mitchell with an RBI ground out to first base, but the inning ended with Bangs still facing a 6-3 deficit.
“Offensively we just didn’t have a very good approach today,” said Bangs head coach Keith Meador, whose team left 10 base runners stranded. “We didn’t get a hit when he needed it and they did and that was the difference in the game.”
Early tacked on five more runs in the bottom of the sixth to essentially ice the victory.
Tyson Tyler led off with a walk, Rode Walters doubled and Reece Bolton drew a free pass to fill the sacks with no out. Hudson’s RBI sacrifice fly plated Tyler with the seventh run, then Riley Hill was plunked by a pitch to again load the bases. Morales’ RBI infield single brought in Walters, then Tarrant walked with the bases loaded to plate Shields, running for Bolton, with the ninth run. Jadyn Lehde followed with a two-RBI single to left field that brought home Hill and Morales with the final Early runs.
“It was close there until the end, but luckily we broke it open,” Hatton said. “We may have worn their pitchers down a little bit, but we found a way to scratch some runs and that’s what good teams have to do to win these tight district games.”
Josh Valdez’s RBI fielder’s choice in the top of the seventh plated Angel Arias with the final run for Bangs, which outhit Early, 7-6. But Dragon pitchers Carbajal and Arias issued a combined nine walks, with most of them coming during the final two frames.
“We threw too many balls, walked too many guys, and that came back to get us,” Meador said. “We got a little wild and they got some hits. It’s frustrating, but that’s just part of baseball.”
Bangs grabbed a 2-0 lead in the top of the first as Hall walked with one out and Carbajal reached on an error. Payton Bible then singled home Hall prior to an RBI single by Arias that knocked in Carbajal.
“We had a throwing error on our pitcher in the first, but other than that I thought our defense was pretty sharp,” Hatton said. “We made some plays to get out of some jams because they threatened a couple more times. We were able to work out of it with our defense and timely pitching.”
Early pitchers Ethen Portillo and Kyle Ivy combined to allow two earned runs on seven hits with four strikeouts and five walks.
The Longhorns drew even at 2 in the bottom of the second as Tarrant and Aiden Frerichs walked, then Walters delivered a two-out, two-RBI triple.
Early grabbed a 3-2 lead in the third as Hudson led off with a walk and scored the go-ahead run on Tarrant’s two-out RBI single to left field.