By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
DALLAS – Friday night was playoff baseball at its finest.
After winning game one at Al Alford Field on Thursday night, the McKinney Lions needed one more win over the Dallas Jesuit Rangers to seal the Bi-district round series upset over the District 9-5A champions.
The two teams needed more than seven innings to pick a winner at Jesuit Field, as the score was tied at 5-5 entering the 10th inning. Lions senior catcher Dalton Harris led off the inning with a double to left field off Rangers reliever Garrett Franzoi. After a groundout by senior Jesse Cox advanced Harris to third, senior Gunnar Lund reached base on an error by Jesuit second baseman Shea Stine.
Errors would prove to be the demise of the Rangers, as one batter later senior Avery Arnold would go all the way to second base after an error by catcher Dan Keenan. The error would score Harris and Lund, breaking the tie and giving the Lions a 7-5 lead.
A couple of batters later and with runners at second and third with two outs, senior Garrett Dodd popped a ball up to Stine at second base. Stine could not make the play and would commit the Rangers third error of the inning, allowing Arnold and senior Garrett Christianson to score, making it 9-5.
Jesuit would mount a rally in the bottom of the 10th, after the first four Rangers reached base to cut the Lions lead to 9-6. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Nic Ready grounded out to junior shortstop Joe Baker, cutting the lead to 9-7. The tying run stood at second base with just one out, but back-to-back strikeouts of Keenan and Stine killed the Jesuit rally and sealed the first round upset for McKinney.
McKinney won the best-of-three series 2-0, winning game two by a final score of 9-7. The Lions will face Rockwall in the Area round series next week. Rockwall defeated Rowlett 4-1 in a one-game playoff.
After the game, the Lion players celebrated in the middle of the Jesuit field after a near four-hour long game. Harris said that Lions head coach Jeremy Price wanted the players to have the moment of celebration on the field in front of family and friends.
“He made sure we all got together in the middle of the field and celebrated like he said we deserved to,” said Harris. “He expressed to all of us how proud he was. He said he never had a doubt we had the talent, and he congratulated us again for putting together two of the best games we played all year back-to-back.”
With the struggles of last season long in the past, Harris said a series win like this shows the overall tough mentality of the program.
“Honestly, it shows how much a team can come together and focus on the future rather than the past,” said Harris. “We put last season behind us and came up with a common goal, and we pushed through the tough times this year. Ultimately we achieved our goal of going to the second round.”
Senior Nathan Ahsam picked up the win for the Lions on the mound, throwing five innings of scoreless relief for sophomore starter Kal Kilgo. Kilgo struggled through four innings, allowing five earned runs on five hits. He also walked two hitters and had one hit by pitch. Gannaway allowed two earned runs in his one inning of work, but did not earn the save. Jesuit’s Franzoi was the losing pitcher despite all four of his runs being unearned in his 3 and 1/3 innings of relief.
At the plate, senior Trevor Duggan finished 2-for-5 with 3 RBIs, including a two-run triple in the second inning. Christianson, Dodd, Harris, and Arnold all had one RBI each, while Harris finished with a team-high three hits in five at-bats.
For Jesuit, Grant Reuben went 3-for-5 with an RBI and two runs. Keenan had a team-high 2 RBIs while Grant Hatzman walked three times.