By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
MESQUITE – Very few people thought there would be a deciding game three on Saturday afternoon between McKinney North and Mt. Pleasant.
In the No. 1 vs. No. 4 seed Bi-district series in the UIL Class 4A Region II bracket, the state-ranked District 13-4A champion Bulldogs were expected to make quick work of the Tigers, the fourth place team out of District 14-4A. Despite winning game one, an impressive complete game victory by Michael Kopech in game two helped guide Mt. Pleasant to an upset win over North, evening up the best-of-three series at 1-1.
After mustering just three hits in the game Friday night, the Bulldog offense woke up on a beautiful afternoon at Copeland Field at Mesquite Poteet High School. Behind 12 hits and eight walks, North cruised 16-3 over Mt. Pleasant to take the Bi-district round series 2-1. North will face Waxahachie in the Area round next week, with locations and times to be determined.
“I thought we played good,” said North head coach Jim Gatewood. “We played with some emotion and I was proud of us. We did a good job.”
Four different Tiger pitchers were used in the six-inning contest, as the UIL run rule came into effect at the end of the sixth inning, (when a team leads by more than 10 runs after five innings, the game is over.) Starter Jordan Raney went just 1 and 2/3 innings for the Tigers, despite throwing a perfect 1-2-3 frame in the top of the first.
In the top of the second, three walks by Preston Speers, Julian Pope, and Trey Segui loaded the bases with one out. Gabe Constantine, the winning pitcher in game one, would hit a hard chopper to the shortstop Kopech that appeared to be an inning-ending double play. Instead, Kopech was slow to tag second base that allowed Constantine the time to beat his throw at first, as the Bulldog designated hitter was safe at the bag on a fielder’s choice after giving his team a 1-0 lead.
Sidney Wiggins, Montana Sadler, and Anthony Herrera would hit back-to-back-to-back RBI singles, extending the Bulldog lead to 4-0 and ultimately chase Raney from the game. Mt. Pleasant’s Zach Ervin would come in to pitch, and after hitting JT Stevenson in the shoulder, he would allow a two-RBI double down the left field line to give North a commanding 6-0 advantage.
While it was apparent that the Tigers had run out of pitching, their offense tried its best to keep them in the game in the bottom of the second. Mt. Pleasant had five hits in the inning, including RBI doubles by Riley Greenlee and Ryan Kelly, as the Tigers scored three runs in the frame to make it 6-3. North starter Clayton Trout would be pulled after one and 2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out one batter. Herrera would come in relief and throw the final four and 1/3 innings.
“It was one of those things where if Herrera wasn’t so fresh, we probably would have let Trout stay in there and pitch,” said Gatewood. “But with Herrera only throwing 30 pitches on Thursday night, he was ready to go.”
North added a run in the third inning after Travis Scalf reached third base on a throwing error by Tigers third baseman Tehron Rogers. One batter later, Segui hit a towering shot to centerfield that would score Scalf on a sacrifice fly to make it 7-3.
On defense, Herrera and the Bulldogs didn’t have much to worry about the rest of the way. The senior closer demonstrated why he has allowed zero earned runs all season long, as he allowed just one hit and two base runners to the final 15 batters he faced. Herrera finished with four strikeouts and zero walks in the rare four innings save, hitting one batter in the fourth inning.
North would pile on to its lead in the five-run fourth inning, highlighted with two triples by Pope and Constantine. With two runners on after a pair of two out walks to Stevenson and Speers, Pope took a 1-1 pitch and crushed it over the head of the Tigers centerfielder Andrew Flanagan. Both runs would come across the plate while Pope would slide headfirst safely into third base, giving the Bulldogs a 9-3 lead.
Two more walks to Scalf and Segui reloaded the bases for Constantine, who would take advantage of the 20-25 mile per hour winds blowing to right field, as he crushed a ball to right-centerfield that would score all three runs. After his stand up triple, Constantine gave out an emotional roar on the base to celebrate his big hit.
North added four more in the sixth inning to put the run rule into effect, after Wiggins, Sadler, Herrera, and Stevenson all had RBI singles.
“I thought we swung the bats good in batting practice today, but their guy last night was really good,” said Gatewood in regards to his team’s offensive explosion on Saturday. “We haven’t had a lot of guys give it to us like that, so he did do a good job last night of limiting our damage.”
North and Waxahachie will determine the location and times for the Area round series by Monday morning. Stay tuned to TSB for the latest information from the Bulldogs playoff run, in addition to all the playoff baseball and softball teams in action.
Photos by Kellie Anfosso. Click here for more photos.