Warhorses’ momentum quickly shifts Cuero’s way in season-ending playoff series

With Connor Schmidt on the mound for the Warhorses in Game 1 Thursday night in Marion, Cuero gobbled up 12 strikeouts and 2 measly hits off the 6’6 senior right-hander.Backing up Schmidt was outstanding defensive play by the Warhorses who did not commit a single error on the evening, racking up the win 7-0 to take a 1-0 lead in the best of 3 series.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our effort in game one,” stated Head Coach George Villa.“We had a big time pitching performance from Connor Schmidt in a big game. Our bats really came alive and we had some great performances from several players. I thought our energy was a strong force and we had the momentum the whole game. Our defense was lights out as well. We talked about how important our defense would be in this series. It was a complete team victory and that’s what it takes when you get this deep in the state playoffs.”
After game one, however, the baseball gods were not rooting for the Warhorses. Devine’s fielding errors combined with lack of pop off their aluminum bats allowed Cuero to get out of Marion with the Regional Quarterfinal championship by winning game 2 (6-1) and game 3 (17-2). The Warhorse season ends with a 16-14 overall record.
Game 1
First baseman Jerrod Taylor got things rolling for Devine in the bottom of the second inning. Facing Cuero’s number 1 pitcher, Taylor lined a 2-0 pitch to center to score Truett Barron who had led off the inning with a double on a deep shot to center then advanced to third on a sharp single by Matthew Ornelas. Ornelas’s grit during his at bat enabled him to dig out of an 0-2 count to get on base.
Much like the bi-district matchup against Somerset just a couple of weeks ago, the one run scored in the second inning would be all the Warhorses would need to get a playoff victory…but more run support is always nice.
Devine added a little breathing room scoring two more runs in the bottom of the 3rd. Newt Crouch, who reached base on his first three plate appearances, led off the inning by reaching on an error by theGobbler first baseman. After Crouch stole second and Schmidt drew a walk, Ornelas roped the ball to center to score Crouch for the Warhorses second run of the game. Taylor collected his second singleon the night with an RBI ground ball hit to center to score courtesy runner Chad Lawson, bumping the Warhorse lead to 3-0 after three innings.
After a quiet fourth, the Warhorse bats came around momentarily in the fifth then woke up in a big way in the six inning. Crouch led off with a walk and scored on a would-be triple by Schmidt. The first base umpire ruled Schmidt did not touch first base while rounding the bag and was called out on the appeal. Crouch’s run counted however, Devine now led 4-0.
The Warhorses crooked number on the 6th inning right field scoreboard started with Lawson’s walk on 5 pitches. Left fielder Brady Harrell executed a perfect bunt to reach first and advance Lawson.Centerfielder Isaac Solis walked to load the bases. Catcher Kyler Brown grounded into a fielder’s choice for an out at third but Lawson crossed the plate for Devine’s 5th run. Schmidt followed with a sharp hit to center to score Solis then Barron followed with a sacrifice fly to drive in courtesy runner Justin Contreras for the game’s last run.
Master of the mound
Connor Schmidt bumped his season record to 10-1 with the complete game victory. Of the twenty-four Gobblers he faced, 12 begrudgingly walked back to their own dugout with their headhung in bewilderment after hearing the ump bellow “steeeee-rike three”. Throwing darts to catcher Kyler Brown or mixing it up with some off-speed “junk” in the “dirt”, Cuero’s bats were deemed harmless by any type of pitch that came from the lanky right-hander.
As the game went on, Schmidt’s stuff became even better and, with pinpoint command, fans dressed in green could see the frustration building among the Cuero batters. Coach Villa spoke before the game about how Cuero had shown the ability to makegood contact with the ball and each Gobbler out would be a tough out. Not on this night.
The number 1-6 batters combined to go a paltry1-18 with 9 K’s. Schmidt’s final numbers: 7 innings pitched, 24 batters faced, 97 pitches/69 strikes (71%), 17 first-pitch strikes, 2 hits allowed, 0 walks, 12 K’s. Schmidt also struck out 8 of the last 9 batters he faced. Nice night, young fella.
Web gems
As good as Schmidt was on the mound, the perfectly played defense behind him put an exclamation mark on this victory. Twelve times Cuero put the ball in play; 12 times the Warhorse defense flawlessly fielded Gobbler attempts to generate a run. Devine’s 100% fielding percentage is definitely noteworthy.
Kyler Brown, fresh off a two-day State golf tournament on Monday and Tuesday, caught all 7 innings and accounted for 9 put outs on Schmidt’s strikeouts. Brown also completed 3 assists throwing to 1st on ball-in-the-dirt strikeouts. Jerrod Taylor handled all 8 chances he had at first while second baseman Matt Ornelas and right fielder Isaiah Oropeza each went 3 for 3 with their chances. Schmidt, Harrell, and Crouch all went 1 for 1 in the field.
Game 2
Missed offensive opportunities combined with two fielding errors doomed the Warhorses in their 6-1 loss in game two. Devine loaded the bases in the second and third innings but managed only one run with Tristan Kramer drawing an RBI with a hit-by pitch in the second inning.
“I knew going in that game two would be very difficult,” stated Villa. “I knew we had to be perfect on defense and we’d have to score at least 7 runs to have a shot. I thought our pitching was good enough to win but we didn’t play sound defensively while offensively we left too many runners on base.” Devine committed three errors while also leaving eleven runners stranded at the end of their inning.
Cuero broke a tight game wide open with 5 unearned runs in the fourth inning. With the score tied at 1 and two outs, the Gobblers made the Warhorses pay by capitalizing on fielding miscues while the Devine bats remained silent the rest of the evening.
Crouch and Isaac Solis did their part on the mound by creating opportunities for outs. Crouch’s final line of 4 innings pitched with only 1 earned run and 1 base on balls combined with Solis’s 2 innings pitched, 2 hits, and no earned runs allowed normally translates into a victory. Of the 5 hits that Cuero got off of Crouch, two came in the fourth after that inning should have already been in the books.
Game 3
Devine grabbed the early 1-0 lead on a Connor Schmidt single to score Brady Harrell who was courtesy running for catcher Kyler Brown. That lead was short-lived as Cuero scored 9 runs in the bottom of the first inning, blowing the game wide open. The Gobblers pounded out 13 hits in their 17-2 series-clinching win.
Coach Villa said, “Game three was a game in which Cuero’s bats came alive. We hit the ball hard too, but right at them for outs. When Cuero hit the ball, they hit it where we weren’t.”
Final thoughts
Coach Villa commented after game one that, “Games 2 and 3 will come down to energy and which team will be able to weather the storm.” While the Warhorses showed outstanding energy in game 2, they were not able to overcome the storm created by Cuero scoring 5 unearned runs in the bottom of the fourth inningafter what should have been an inning-ending out.
In high school baseball, however, sometimes mistakes happen at the most inopportune time.Schmidt was near perfect on the mound in game one while Newt Crouch was outstanding in his pitching performance in game two. Only giving up one earned run on the night, Newt had great command of his pitches and gave the Warhorses every chance possible to grind out not only a game 2 victory, but also a series-clinching win.
With Devine’s error-free ball played in the field during game one, repeating that performance was necessary to win either game two or game three. Unfortunately, that was not the case. Although the Warhorses lost both games on Friday that ended an outstanding multiple-championship season, no player or coach should hang their head.
Devine showed heart and determination in winning a District 29-4A championship as well as an Area championship, and earning a Regional Quarterfinal appearance. Players and coaches, congratulations on a great, memorable season!
By Jerel Beaty
Staff Writer