Wednesday , 25 April 2018

Baseball Playoffs: Rockwall Sluggers Make the Difference, Eliminate MHS Lions in Area Round

By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor

LEWISVILLE — Behind a couple of wind-aided home runs and a solid pitching performance by Carter Lilly, the Rockwall Yellowjackets defeated the McKinney High Lions baseball team 11-4 in game two of the UIL Class 5A Region II Area round series Saturday. Rockwall completed the sweep of the Lions, winning the best-of-3 series 2-0.

McKinney finished the season 19-13 overall. Rockwall will face Plano in the Regional Quarterfinals next week.

With winds gusting at 15 miles per hour straight out to centerfield at Lewisville High School, it became apparent early in the game that any fly ball hit high in the air would get caught up in the jet stream and carry out of the park.

After Lilly set down the Lions in order in the top of the first, Cole Ballew hit a full-count pitch from McKinney starter Brett Gannaway and crushed it into the houses beyond the right field wall, giving the Yellowjackets a 1-0 lead. Not to be outdone, Kendall Coleman, a University of Iowa commit and a possible Major League Baseball draftee in June, came up to the plate next and lined the first pitch he saw deep into centerfield.

The centerfield wall at Lewisville has the proportions of the top half of a hexagon, and as the ball was carrying to the right-center field side of the wall, McKinney centerfielder Avery Arnold jumped and bounced off the wall as if he was attempting to rob the home run. Despite his efforts, the ball went over the fence and Rockwall was quickly ahead 2-0.

Rockwall added two more in the second, one off a home run that went over the right field wall by Nick Lutzel. While Lilly had allowed just one hit through the first two innings, the Lion bats came alive in the top of the third. Jesse Cox doubled down the right field line with one out, and after a line out to third by Gunnar Lund, Garrett Christianson reached base off a hit by pitch.

Cox advanced to third on a wild pitch by Lilly, and with runners on the corners and two outs, Joe Baker awaited a full count offering from Lilly. The left-handed pitcher got Baker to chase strike three in the dirt, but the ball got behind catcher Garrett Moon, allowing Cox to score and Baker to reach first safely.

The next hitter was Dalton Harris, who hit a fly ball that carried deep into left field. Ballew, the Yellowjackets left fielder, chased the ball back to the fence but appeared to slow up as if it was over the fence for a home run. Instead, the ball bounced off the base of the wall, allowing both Lions to score and give Harris a two-RBI double to cut the deficit to 4-3.

That would be as close as McKinney would get on the afternoon, as Rockwall got the three runs back in the bottom of the third off a wind-aided home run to right field by Dustin Angiel. Off the bat the ball appeared to be a routine fly ball to Cox in right, but the ball kept carrying and soared out of the park to make it 7-3.

Gannaway would allow three more runs in the bottom of the fourth before exiting the game for Arnold. Gannaway allowed seven earned runs in three-plus innings, giving up 10 hits and walking four. Arnold pitched the final three innings, giving up just one earned run in his final outing on the mound in a Lion uniform.

Despite facing less-than-desired conditions in the field, McKinney head coach Jeremy Price credited Rockwall’s ability at the plate to make solid contact on the ball all day.

“I think it is more a tribute to them and their offense approach,” said Price. “I think we put almost as many balls in play as they did, but they squared balls up and we didn’t.”

McKinney’s final run of the day came in the sixth when Harris hit a 1-1 pitch deep into left-center field for a home run. The Lions finished with four runs off five hits, a little more than 12 hours after being one-hit by Rockwall’s Alec Vice in game one at Dr. Pepper Ballpark in Frisco.

“Just offensive woes,” said Price. “We aren’t designed to outscore people, and today with the way conditions were, if you get down early that kind of takes us out of the game. We don’t stand much of a chance in a game like that.”

Eleven seniors played their final game for McKinney on Saturday afternoon. With the end-of-the year prom just hours away in Allen, the MHS players can have a distraction to take their minds off the season-ending loss. After being projected to finish last in the newly formed District 10-5A, Price said that the senior class should be proud of everything they have accomplished this season.

“They are a realistic bunch,” said Price. “They understand that this was not our game, and they are a realistic bunch to know that they achieved a ton more than what most people anticipated. When they have a chance to reflect on the season as a whole, they have a lot to be proud of.”

For the returning starters like Gannaway, Brad Vassar and Baker, Price hopes that the same offseason approach brought on by the seniors carried over to 2014.

“They can just learn that our approach in the offseason contributed considerably to our success,” said Price. “It is going to be big for them coming back in the fall that they remember what the recipe is for success. It will be up to them to come back and do it again.”

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