Steers defeat Midlothian Heritage 4-2 in game one of area playoffs
Graham hosted Midlothian Heritage Thursday night in game one of the area round of the playoffs and captured game one of the best-of-three series with a 4-2 victory against the Jaguars. The Steers had a four run third inning that was the big difference maker.
The Steers brought all of their offense to the third inning. Graham was able to capitalize against Midlothian Heritage and then hold on to take the series lead. The Steers were aggressive at the plate and on the base paths during the third inning outburst of offense.
“That’s what I told them. I said, you know we had some good at-bats the whole game, but we didn’t make the kid throw a lot of pitches,” Steers head coach Jim Bob Williams said. “He was throwing it down the middle. We were going up there swinging the bat and we squared up and hit it hard a couple of times, but we hit it right at them. I told them not to get frustrated. We hit the ball hard, they were just in the right spots. Just keep at it. We had that one good inning where everything piled on, but that’s what you have to do. Especially in the playoffs, when you get things going like that in the inning, you just have to keep piling them on and get as many as you can in that one inning.”
Dillon Rodgers started the game for Graham and he worked through the first two innings on the mound quickly and efficiently. The only base runner for the Jaguars in the top of the second was thrown out by Steers catcher Donovan Barrett on an attempt to steal second. The Steers were retired 1-2-3 in the first two innings.
Midlothian Heritage scored first in the top of the third. The Jaguars scored a run off of a fielder’s choice at first. Rodgers and the Steers minimized the damage and worked out of the inning only trailing 1-0.
Graham went right back to work in the bottom of the third. Jaxon Brockway scored first for Graham off of a Chance Hornsey single. Kody Perry kept the offense going with a single to right. Hornsey then scored in the inning off of a Evan Schraub sacrifice fly. Connor Smith followed that with a double to left field that scored Perry. Tucker Horn then doubled to score Smith and the Steers jumped out to a 4-1 lead at the end of three.
Both teams were retired quickly in the fourth. In the fifth inning, Midlothian Heritage scored their second run off of a fielder’s choice. The Steers went down quickly in the fifth and held a 4-2 lead.
Dillon Rodgers started the sixth with two strikeouts. He followed the two strikeouts with two walks and was pulled after 94 pitches and 5.2 innings of work. Rodgers struck out five and walked four. He allowed three hits and two runs to come across while on the mound.
Luke Stone came in to pitch the final inning and a third. Stone quickly got out of the sixth inning unscathed.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Steers had a great opportunity to score. Midlothian Heritage committed two throwing errors on a Callen Mills stolen base attempt. After Midlothian Heritage overthrew third, Mills rounded third and made a mad dash for home. The play was close at the plate, but the home plate umpire ruled Mills out. The Steers had to be content with a 4-2 lead as they headed to the final inning.
There were two walks and two strikeouts from Stone in the top of the seventh inning. Graham put the game away in the seventh with a pop up at second base. The 4-2 win for the Steers gives Graham a huge advantage going into game two on Saturday.
The Steers have added confidence and grabbed the series momentum by defeating the Jaguars at-home. Heading to Midlothian on Saturday, the Steers hope to take care of business and advance to the regional quarter-finals, where most likely Abilene Wylie will be the opponent waiting for them.
The Steers pitching staff struggled with control at times but stepped up to make the key outs when they had to and pitched a solid game.
“Both Dillon and Luke struggled a little bit at times with their control, but when they had to, they settled down and made pitches when they had to,” Williams said. “Both struggled a little bit throwing their fastball for strikes. It came back when they had to, and they made pitches when they had to, (in order) to get out of situations.”
Hornsey went 1-for-2 with a run scored and an RBI. Brockway went 1-for-2 with a run scored. Smith went 1-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Perry went 1-for-3 with a run scored, and Schraub went 1-for-2 with an RBI.
Midlothian Heritage’s Michael Holland went 1-for-2 and scored both of the Jaguar’s runs. The Jaguars recorded only three hits in the game and were effectively shut-down by the Steers pitching staff, minus the walks.
Graham opened the season this year with Midlothian Heritage. Both teams have improved significantly since that early season 1-0 contest. The Jaguars like to play defense and let the game come to them.
“They are a young team, and they are a defensive minded team,” Williams said. “They are going to throw strikes, and they’re not going to put people on base and hurt themselves. They are going to try to make you hit the ball at them and make plays behind them. They are good defensively. They are very solid defensively. So, we’re just going to try to keep with the same mind-set of being aggressive at the plate, but make sure it’s good pitches that we are swinging at. When we get on base, let’s be aggressive on the bases. We have to do the same thing they are going to do, which is pound the strike zone, throw a lot of strikes.”
The Steers played clean defense against the Jaguars in game one. The Steers did not commit an error on Thursday. Saturday, the Steers committed three errors in game two, and four errors in game three against Iowa Park. Playing clean defense and being efficient on the mound will be the keys to putting away Midlothian Heritage on Saturday.
On the other side of the area bracket, Abilene Wylie is facing off against Venus in a three game series. Game one of that series was scheduled to begin on Friday in Henrietta with games two and three being played Saturday in Henrietta. Wylie and Venus faced off last year in the Region I championship series.
Around District 6-4A, rival Mineral Wells takes on Godley this weekend and district rival Stephenville faces off against Decatur. The winners of those games will play against each other in the regional quarter-finals.
Graham concludes their area round series against Midlothian Heritage on Saturday in Midlothian. Game two is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m with game three following if necessary.
The Steers were in a 1-0 hole against Iowa Park, but managed to climb out of it with two dramatic victories at home against the Hawks. The Steers have the momentum, but Midlothian Heritage will be looking for the same kind of magic the Steers had last weekend, on their home turf this weekend.
Coverage from games two and three will be available online and in Wednesday’s edition of The Graham Leader.