• Photo By Kyle Borne
    Tucker Horn pitches in game two on Saturday.
  • Photo by Kyle Borne
    Logan Taylor makes the play for Graham at first base.
  • Photo by Kyle Borne

Steers fall short against Jaguars, season comes to end

Steers fall 8-7 in game two and 8-3 in game 3
We struggled throwing strikes in the seventh inning. We got behind guys and when we did, they hit the ball, and I probably left Luke (Stone) in too long. We probably should have had our outfielders deeper than we did in the seventh inning in that situation. That was as much our fault (coaching staff) as it was the kids. We should have done some things to help them out.

The Steers continued the area round of the playoffs on Saturday with games two and three against the Midlothian Heritage Jaguars. Saturday’s games were played at Chisholm Trail High School in Fort Worth. 

The Steers were three outs away in game two from closing out the series in two games. The Jaguars then mounted a come from behind victory, 8-7, in game two. Midlothian Heritage forced a winner-take-all game three and won that game 8-3.

Graham started the series with a game one victory on Thursday. In that 4-2 win the Steers pitched well, and behind a strong inning of offense they held off the Jaguars.

Game two was another low-scoring affair for most of the game. The offense didn’t explode until the last two innings.

The Steers Connor Smith scored first in the game, thanks to a Logan Taylor single. Smith reached base in the top of the first with two outs after being hit by a pitch. Graham’s 1-0 lead didn’t last long, though. Midlothian Heritage scored in the bottom of the first off of a fielder’s choice at first base. The Steers and Jaguars were tied at one after the first inning.

Jaxon Brockway managed a lead off walk for the Steers in the second. He remained stranded in the inning and did not score. The Jaguars were retired 1-2-3 in the inning.

The third inning continued to see both pitchers get into a rhythm. The Steers went down quietly, and then the Jaguars went down with only one runner stranded. 

The fourth inning was similar. Graham stranded Brockway again, and the Jaguars went down quickly, 1-2-3. 

The top of fifth inning saw Kody Perry score for Graham. Smith hit a deep sacrifice fly that drove him in for the second run of the game. The Jags came right back and scored their own run off a sacrifice fly to center field. The game was tied at two after five innings. 

The sixth was the breakout inning for Graham. The Steers quickly loaded the bases in the inning with no outs. Danny Key singled to score Callen Mills. Chance Hornsey then singled to score Steven Kimberling and Brockway. Evan Schraub then doubled to score Hornsey and Perry. The Steers took a commanding 7-2 lead to the bottom of the sixth inning.

The Jaguars continued to fight and immediately had base runners in the sixth. With a single and a walk Midlothian Heritage was in business with only one out. An RBI double scored a run for the Jaguars and trimmed the lead to 7-3. Steers pitcher Tucker Horn battled back in the inning and worked out of trouble. He recorded a strikeout and then a ground out to minimize the damage at one run.

The Steers went to the final inning with a four run lead. The Steers stranded one runner in the top half of the inning and the score remained 7-3. Horn left the mound for Graham in the seventh and freshman Luke Stone came into pitch for the Steers.

Stone quickly ran into trouble against Midlothian Heritage. The first three batters were walked in the inning, and the Jaguars had the bases loaded with no outs. The Jaguars hit a sacrifice fly to score their first run of the inning. That trimmed the Steers lead to three. 

The next batter singled to shortstop on a ball that was playable. That made the score 7-5. Midlothian Heritage hit it hard to center on the next at-bat, and the ensuing triple drove in two runs to tie the game. With no outs, the winning run was now on third base.

Stone left the game for the Steers, and Brockway went to the mound. With the winning run on third, a wild pitch got past Steers catcher Donavan Barrett, and Midlothian Heritage tied the series with a stunning come from behind win.

Horn pitched six innings for Graham. He allowed two earned runs to score on six hits. He had five strikeouts and one walk.

At the plate, Hornsey and Schraub had two RBIs each. Hornsey went 1-for-2 with a run scored. Schraub went 1-for 3. Perry also scored two runs for the Steers in game two.

The ending to game two was tough. Graham was three outs away from closing out the series and instead was forced to play an emotionally difficult game three. Graham scored runs late in game two, but  it ended up not being enough.

“Well, we had been talking about having good at-bats. We kept approaches throughout the game,” Steers head coach Jim Bob Williams said. “We hit some balls at them and we finally got some to fall and got some runs on the board and got ahead. We struggled throwing strikes in the seventh inning. We got behind guys and when we did, they hit the ball, and I probably left Luke (Stone) in too long. We probably should have had our outfielders deeper than we did in the seventh inning in that situation. That was as much our fault (coaching staff) as it was the kids. We should have done some things to help them out. They took advantage of the situation. You have to give Midlothian Heritage a lot of credit. They’re young kids, but they made a lot of baseball plays. They made a lot of smart baseball plays.”

The ending to game two was tough. Graham was three outs away from closing out the series and instead was forced to play an emotionally difficult game three. Graham scored runs late in game two, but  it ended up not being enough.

“Well, we had been talking about having good at-bats. We kept approaches throughout the game,” Steers head coach Jim Bob Williams said. “We hit some balls at them and we finally got some to fall and got some runs on the board and got ahead. We struggled throwing strikes in the seventh inning. We got behind guys and when we did they hit the ball, and I probably left Luke (Stone) in too long. We probably should have had our outfielders deeper than we did in the seventh inning in that situation. That was as much our fault (coaching staff) as it was the kids. We should have done some things to help them out. They took advantage of the situation. You have to give Midlothian Heritage a lot of credit. They’re young kids, but they made a lot of baseball plays. They made a lot of smart baseball plays.”

With only 30 minutes to spare before starting game three, the Steers had to find a way to put the rough ending of game two behind them. Game three was a winner-take-all for the Area Championship. 

“We talked about it, after the game two, it’s over with. It’s done with. You have to put it behind you,” Williams said. “That’s what we try to talk about all year that you have to put it behind you, and that you have to go on to the next pitch and the next play and go on. We struggled with it a little bit. We didn’t do a real good job of making a play when we needed to make a play. We had some opportunities to get out of some innings and things didn’t work out real well for us.”

Both teams went down quickly in the first inning. Midlothian Heritage scored first in the top of the second off of a double to take a 1-0 lead.

The Jaguars kept the offense going in the third inning. Midlothian Heritage loaded the bases with no outs. Smith walked a run in to give the Jags their second run of the game. Two runs then scored after a single to center field to take a 4-0 lead.

Graham left the bases loaded in the bottom of the third, and did not manage to capitalize on scoring opportunities.

In the fourth, the Jaguars scored again. This time the Jags were able to score off of a wild pitch. The inning ended with a controversial call at first. Midlothian Heritage’s head coach argued profusely, but the inning ended with Midlothian Heritage up 5-0.

The Jaguars played good small ball. They created several opportunities to score and moved the base runners they had as efficiently as possible.

“They did a good job bunting the ball and putting it where they needed to and getting guys on and moving people around,” Williams said. “They did a real good job with the small ball. They were very efficient and very effective with it.”

In the fifth inning, the Steers managed to get on the board. Perry scored on a sacrifice fly to make the score 5-1. 

Small ball continued to work in the favor of Midlothian Heritage in the sixth inning. The Jags scored runs off of a bunt single, a single to left and a sacrifice fly. Midlothian Heritage expanded their lead to 8-1. 

Graham left one stranded in the sixth and went to the final inning with a huge hole to dig out of.

The Steers kept fighting in the final inning. Perry scored on a Smith single to right field to get things started. Horn hit a ball hard at the shortstop and scored Schraub. Smith also advanced to third and the Steers trailed now only 8-3. 

The Jaguars changed pitchers, and a Taylor pop up to left ended the game and the Steers season. Midlothian Heritage won 8-3, and after a great run Graham’s season was over.

On the mound, Smith pitched 3.1 innings. He gave up five runs on seven hits. He also walked four and struck out three. Smith was on short rest after throwing  in the discus at the state  track meet in Austin earlier Saturday morning. 

Key pitched 1.2 innings. He allowed two earned runs off of four hits. Key had one strikeout. Jacob Jones pitched the other two innings. He only allowed one hit and a walk. 

Graham had seven hits as a team in game three, and committed four errors on defense.

Offensively, Perry had a solid game three. He went 2-for-3 at the plate with two runs scored and a walk. Schraub also went 2-for-3 with a run scored and a walk. Smith went 1-for-3 and drove in two RBIs in game three.

 

Read the entire article in Wednesday's edition of The Graham Leader. 

The Graham Leader

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