By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
On paper, there was nothing on the line at Bronco Field on Friday night between crosstown rival McKinney High and McKinney Boyd.
With the Lions locked in as the No. 4 seed out of District 10-5A and the Broncos just two days away from the completion of their season, the game didn’t have a lot of flash on paper. However, each school had certain goals it was looking to achieve by the end of the game.
For the Lions, head coach Jeremy Price was looking to get his pitchers a set number of pitches in preparation for his team’s playoff run, which will start next week. In the other dugout, first year Bronco head coach Brooke Court was looking to finish off a disappointing district season on a high note. With a win over McKinney, Boyd would win the three-game series against the Lions 2-1, the only 10-5A school the Broncos would have won the season series against.
After moving up the game time three hours due to the threat of rain, the two teams took the field to dark and cloudy skies at Bronco Field. While the sun came out at times during the contest, the brightest spot on the field was Broncos starter Tyler Keegan, who kept the Lions offense at bay and helped his team pick up a huge 4-2 win.
“It has been the same thing all year,” said Court. “When you get a good pitching performance and timely hits, you give yourself a chance to win. That is what we got today.”
Boyd finished 4-11 in District 10-5A and improved to 12-17 overall, with its Senior Day game Saturday afternoon versus Mesquite Horn. McKinney finished 8-7 in 10-5A and fell to 17-11 overall. The Lions will await the District 9-5A winner in the Bi-district round series next week.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of our kids,” said Price. “It is basically the same set of kids that we had last year with a team that we won seven or eight ballgames with. This year we won 17 and it says something about them and that we are doing things the right way.”
Trailing 2-1 entering the bottom of the fifth, the Bronco bats had just nine outs left to get a rally going. Facing Kal Kilgo, the third of five Lion pitchers on the night, Lucas Diaz hit a one out single to get the tying run on base. After a groundout by Jalen Jackson moved Diaz to second base, catcher Tommy Nawa ripped a ground rule double to left-center field to tie the game at 2-2.
While the Broncos have struggled all season long in knocking in runners in scoring position, Paxton Larson came up big with a RBI single back up the middle on the first pitch he saw to give the Broncos a 3-2 lead.
After that, Keegan and the Broncos recorded the final six outs of the game to secure the victory and the season series win over the Lions. McKinney got one hitter on base in the top of the seventh, but Gunnar Lund was stranded at second after a groundout and a strike out.
Keegan went the complete game, allowing two earned runs and striking out six hitters. He improved to 3-6 on the season. His only rough inning came in the third, when emotions got chippy between the two teams.
Lions starter Avory Arnold hit Larson in the head in the bottom of the second inning, and after recording an out to start the third, Keegan’s first pitch to Arnold at the plate was a fastball that sailed behind his back and hit the back stop. Keegan threw two balls that missed outside, and then threw behind him again to complete a very chippy at bat.
Arnold and Larson appeared to have a little chatter back and forth between one another as Arnold took first base, as both umpires stepped inside the baseline to protect anything more from happening. By all accounts from the stands, no warnings were issued to both teams and there were no other “exciting” incidents in the game.
“He kind of got caught up in the emotions of that inning and let it get to him, but after that he was really good,” said Court, speaking of Keegan’s performance on the mound.
Arnold was pulled after two innings on the mound, with Nathan Ahsam throwing a perfect third inning. Kilgo threw two innings and took the loss, while aces Brad Vassar and Brett Gannaway combined to allow one run in the sixth inning.
“We were scheduled to throw at least five guys and we got that accomplished,” said Price. “We got exactly what we wanted out of it, except the win of course. You always want to play to win but we are always looking at the bigger picture.”
Both shortstops had phenomenal games defensively, as Joe Baker and Russell Williams stole the show in the field. Baker made several web gems including a play up the middle where he caught the ball over second base, turned and threw a dart to first to retire the runner. Williams played a clean game as well, having six put outs in the game, including four straight to start the game.
“Joe has really come into his own, especially once we got into district play,” said Price. “He has kind of reached a comfort level out there that he knows what he is capable of and we know what he is capable of. It is nice to have out there as a pitcher to know that if you throw groundballs, you have a chance.”
At the plate, Broncos’ first baseman Fran DeJesus finished 2-3 with a double and a triple. He was the only hitter with multiple hits in the contest.
“Fran has come on really good since he got benched at Allen,” said Court. “He had to make a choice and obviously he did. It has been showing since then.”
McKinney will await the winner of District 9-5A in the Bi-district round next week, which will either be W.T. White, Jesuit, or Lake Highlands. Despite the regular season finale loss, Price and the Lions are confident and ready heading into what they hope is a long playoff run.
“We just have to focus on one game at a time,” said Price. “That is all we can do. We can’t get caught looking too far ahead, and it is one at bat at a time and one game at a time. That is the way we are going to approach it.”
Boyd will have its season finale Saturday afternoon versus Mesquite Horn, as the 11 seniors will be honored before the game on Senior Day. Despite a frustrating season that has seen the Broncos lose four district games by one run, Court is excited to honor the kids in their final game in a Bronco uniform.
“We are going to celebrate them and send them out the right way,” said Court. “Hopefully make good memories for them.”
While Court coached the group of seniors for just one season, he couldn’t be more proud for the way the kids came to work despite the up-and-down year.
“They work hard and are really funny,” said Court. “They are good kids and we just asked that they come and work hard every day, and they did that. Even though we haven’t got the wins that we wanted, they still showed up to work every day and worked hard. That will benefit them down the road in life.”
Boyd-Mesquite Horn is scheduled for 12 p.m. at Bronco Field. MHS will learn its first round series Monday afternoon. Stay tuned to TSB for the latest updates on the Lions playoff run.