By Colin Bado, TSB Sports Writer
For the first time in four years, the McKinney North Bulldogs can proudly proclaim themselves champions of District 13-4A.
As the game concluded and the scoreboard showed a 5-0 win, the Bulldogs ran from their dugout as they cheered and sprayed soft drinks all over each other, emulating their idols in the big leagues.
“I couldn’t be more pleased right now,” said North head coach Jim Gatewood. “That’s a great team (Wylie East Raiders) in the other dug out.”
The Bulldogs’ (22-1) only loss of the 2013 season thus far was to the Raiders, back on Mar. 26. The last time these two teams met, the Raiders defeated the Bulldogs 3-2 in a pitchers duel. North pitcher Gabe Constantine earned the loss on the hill that evening, but Gatewood gave his young pitcher a chance for revenge Friday night at his home field.
“Constantine didn’t have his best stuff tonight,” said Gatewood. “But he stuck in there and played great. He has confidence every single time he gets on the mound”
Constantine was a catalyst in Friday night’s shutout, striking out six Raider hitters in six and a third innings. He won his seventh game of the season and brought his ERA down to 1.69, one of the best in the area. Anthony Herrera came in to record the final two outs of the game, but the game was not in a save situation.
Opposite Constantine on the mound was Wylie East starter Garret McCain, who entered Friday night with a 6-0 record along with 72 strikeouts, becoming one of the dominate pitchers in 13-4A. However, the Bulldogs’ bats came alive and struck for five runs against McCain, giving the Raider pitcher his first loss of the season in the 5-0 defeat.
A night filled with outstanding pitching and defensive play could not be overshadowed by Julian Pope’s single shot homerun over the right field wall in the fifth inning. His second of the season, Pope’s homerun deflated the Raiders’ overzealous mentality.
North was anticipating getting on the scoreboard early in the bottom of the first with runners on second and third, but Preston Speers hit into a 4-6-3 double play ending the inning. Offensive woes and blunders early in the game could have been costly, but the the players were able to keep their composure and stay focused.
“We made mistakes early,” said Gatewood. “We popped up a bunt, and got picked off when we shouldn’t have been stealing.”
In the third inning the Bulldogs managed to conjure up their first run after two unproductive innings. Sidney Wiggins hit a grounder to short and sprinted to first, managing to beat out the throw. Montana Sadler followed Wiggins and was walked by McCain. Herrera laid down a perfect bunt, advancing all the runners and safely running to first.
With no outs, Jacob Whitehead hit a groundball to short, scoring Wiggins from third. Before the Bulldogs could take advantage of the remaining runners in scoring position, Preston Speers lined out into a double play to Raider second baseman Mason Knapp.
Permitting the Bulldogs to take a three run lead, Chandler Geroge laid down a perfectly executed squeeze bunt, bringing in Jacob Faubion from third. North’s final run of the night came off the bat of Herrera in the bottom of the sixth. A standup double brought in Wiggins after his base hit.
With two outs remaining, Herrera was brought in the close the game in a non-save situation. The crowds’ nerves tightened as Herrerea allowed a base hit and a walk against his first two batters. Before the Raiders could grasp a glimmer of hope, Herrera turned it on and struck out the next two batters ending the game in favor of the Bulldogs.
North clinched at least a share of the District 13-4A championship. A loss next Friday night at Denison and a Wylie East win over Lovejoy at home would create a tie-breaker game to decide the No. 1 seed in the district. The two teams split the two-game season series between one another.
The Bulldogs play a home non-district game versus Little Elm on Saturday afternoon, beginning at 1 p.m. North will be celebrating Senior Day in the final regular season home game this season.
Photos by Kellie Anfosso. Click here for more photos.