Although the playoff picture has been quite clear in District 25-4A, there was still business to be taken care of down the stretch of the regular season on the baseball diamond in Sealy.
The Tigers closed out their regular season campaign with a 16-1 run-rule win over the Royal Falcons at the end of last week to close out on a high note.
“We’ve got eight seniors and they deserved this one,” said head coach Dane Bennett. “They worked their tails off to get to this point, they’ve put in a lot of hours and they got to enjoy themselves tonight. We’ve had three battle-tested, playoff-intensity games and it felt good to not have to freak out about this one.”
The Tigers took a comfortable 6-0 lead after the first three innings of play and the bats were only warming up.
The Sealy swings continued to connect with the baseball which led to a 10-run explosion in the bottom of the fourth to put things far out of reach. A major catalyst of that rally was senior Chaplin Moore, who drove in half of the runs that inning.
All 5 of his RBI came in the fourth when 14 Tigers registered an at-bat starting with Hunter Kelley and eventually ending with Hunter Havel, another pair of seniors.
Moore provided a pair of long balls to the outfield that scored two and three runs reach with first a double that he wanted to extend to a triple but wisely retreated to second to keep the inning going which allowed another trip to the plate where he did get that triple he was chasing in his dreams.
Six hits, four walks and a hit batsman all kept the inning moving, leaving just three outs for Rhys Reichardt to buckle down and earn a complete game on the hill in a run-shortened contest.
Although it had been a month since his previous start (March 26 versus Stafford) the only run surrendered came in the very first inning as he certainly felt the pressure come off with each insurance run that hit the plate.
“We came out a little bit flat it was senior night, some of our stuff is a little different routine-wise but Rhys came out and did what he does,” Bennett said of his lefty hurler. “It’s been a while since he’s started, and it took a little bit for him to find that rhythm, but it was good that he found it today.”
The head coach also included that with a recent stretch of hard-fought games, a less stressful game will only help his team entering the postseason.
“We’ve had three games in a row where it’s been tough and we’ve been a little hard on ourselves at the plate,” Bennett said. “For us to come out and see the ball well and hit it hard, that’s the one key we’re missing as we move forward and if we can be consistent in that aspect, we have a chance to do something special because our defense and pitching is good enough to get us there.”
That something special will start this Thursday and Friday with a Bi-District best-of-three series with the LaGrange Leopards, the second year in a row both softball and baseball teams start the playoffs against the same team.
Bennett noted that he has a base understanding of the program being run over there and knows it will take a solid effort from their side to get things done.
“Year in and year out (LaGrange) is a consistent program, they always do things right. Coach Barber over there is a great dude and he knows what he’s doing,” Bennett said. “We’re always in their tournament so we get to see them a little bit … I know they have a couple of pitchers who throw the ball really well and they have two/three guys who are pretty dangerous in their lineup so we’re gonna have to play good to move on, no question about that.”
Before that, the second-year head coach took a moment to reflect on another outstanding senior group who ended their final regular season campaign on an emphatically positive note on their home field.
“I’ve been really lucky of having two really good senior groups that have one; loved baseball and that’s important, you don’t get that everywhere, and two; have a lot of experience in playing baseball games,” he said. “I can’t say enough, I’m an emotional guy so I get emotional talking about those dudes because they’ve bought in to everything I’ve asked with open arms and I feel like we have really good relationships.
“I still talk to the seniors from last year and that’s what this is all about. Baseball is a game and we love winning but in the end of the day it’s about building relationships and making these guys into the ultimate men as they succeed in life,” he said.
Their next chance to succeed will come at the end of this week with Thursday’s trip to LaGrange to kick off the postseason. Game 2 will be the following day, Friday, in Sealy with the start time scheduled for 5 p.m. so as to allow the possibility of a Game 3 to be played, if necessary, immediately after at Aubrey “Mutt” Stuessel Field.