Longhorns double up Dragons, 4-2, in pivotal early District 6-2A baseball encounter

DERRICK STUCKLY BROWNWOOD BULLETIN derrick.stuckly@brownwoodbulletin.com
Early’s Kellan Jackson (2) awaits the ruling by the field umpire after tagging Bangs’ Tanner Shaw at second base during the bottom of the first inning of the Longhorns’ 4-2 District 6-2A road victory.

BANGS — Only two games into the District 6-2A baseball schedule, and the Early Longhorns have changed the complexion of the race for the championship.

The Longhorns snapped a long drought to the defending district and regional champion Bangs Dragons Tuesday night, notching a 4-2 road victory in the second 6-2A outing for both ball clubs.

“It’s a big win any time you can beat an outfit like they have,” said Early head coach Wayland Damron. “It’s been a while since we beat those guys and they do a great job.”

Early (8-2-1, 2-0) was able to make the most of some uncharacteristic Bangs (5-6, 1-1) miscues, which included base running mistakes, wild pitches and passed balls.

“Our inexperience showed through and they outplayed us and beat us tonight,” said Bangs head coach Jim Bob Williams. “We don’t have a lot of kids with varsity experience and when you play a good team you can’t have the mistakes we did on the bases, and with giving up extra bases. The biggest thing to me is we gave them too many extra bases and helped them out too much.”

The Longhorns broke a 2-all tie with a pair of runs in the top of the fifth inning.

Christopher Johnston led off the fifth with a deep infield single to shortstop off Bangs pitcher J.T. Newton, who struck out 14 batters, walked two and gave up six hits.

Johnston moved to second base on a passed ball, which allowed Jared Crouch to poke an RBI single into right field that scored Johnston all the way from second with the decisive run.

Crouch later stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored on Bangs’ only error of the night, a Tres Underwood grounder to shortstop that was mishandled.

“We had a good approach at the plate and were able to get a little aggressive on the base paths and were able to push two across against a really good pitcher,” Damron said. “J.T. did a heck of job.”

Underwood and reliever Nick Alcorta stole the show on the mound, however, as the duo combined for nine strikeouts, four walks and limited the Dragons to six hits.

The win went to Underwood, who worked the first five innings and yielded one earned run on five hits with four strikeouts and three walks. Alcorta closed out the game, striking out five in two frames.

The Longhorn defense, meanwhile, did not commit an error.

“Our two pitchers did a great job,” Damron said. “They threw a lot of strikes and we played good defense behind them. I couldn’t be any prouder of the kids.”

Early took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as Alcorta singled with two outs and scored from first on an RBI double to left-center field by J.W. Ledbetter.

Bangs answered in the bottom of the first as Chuy Alvarado walked with one out and moved to second following a Tanner Shaw walk. Chance Beck singled home Alvarado with two outs, but Shaw was tagged out at second for the final out.

The Dragons led momentarily in the bottom of the third as Newton drilled a line drive home run to the gap in left-center field, which came two pitches after the Longhorn defense was unable to corral a pop up in foul territory.

The Longhorns wasted little time drawing even as Alcorta walked to start the top of the fourth, stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball. Kellan Jackson’s RBI ground out down the first base line scored Alcorta with the tying run.

Early will be back in district action at noon Thursday at Jim Ned, while Bangs will look to rebound at 3 p.m. Thursday at Ballinger.

“We did some good things, we just have to get focused and ready for Ballinger,” Williams said. “It’s a short turnaround and we have to get our heads on straight, get ready to play and use some of the mistakes we made tonight and learn from them.”