The Sealy Tigers’ varsity baseball team began their playoff series against the El Campo Ricebirds last weekend and despite the Ricebirds striking first in the opening game of the series, the Tigers walked away as the victors.
El Campo scored their first run of the game as a runner walked home from third after a Sealy error. The Ricebirds had a chance to extend their lead further but stranded two men on base after grounding out.
The Tigers wasted no time evening the score as Justin Eckhardt hit a double with his first at-bat. A sacrifice bunt worked out well for the Tigers’ next batter as Jared Kainer reached first and advanced the runner to third thanks to a catcher error.
A fielder’s choice scored the run for Sealy and while El Campo managed to get out of the inning with just that run allowed, the game was tied heading into the second inning. El Campo scored two runs in the second but the 3-1 lead was the last time the Ricebirds would lead Sealy.
The Ricebirds’ starting pitcher struggled in the bottom of the second walking Sealy’s second batter after the first reached first on a dropped third strike. With two outs, El Campo walked three straight batters, the last one bringing home Sealy’s Clay Roberts to make the score 3-2.
The Tigers scored again when Hunter Kelley singled, advancing two runners across home plate. El Campo’s starter was pulled after another walk and a double that scored two more. Sealy to drove in three more runs before the inning came to a close.
After the second, Sealy led 9-3 and there were a combined nine errors in the game. El Campo was responsible for five and Sealy had four.
After another pitching change in the bottom of the third, Sealy scored another runner on a sacrifice fly to push their lead to 10-3. The Ricebirds were hitless in the third and fourth inning.
Sealy’s lead shrunk in the fifth inning as Garret Zaskoda, who had been pitching well since the first inning, allowed El Campo to score five runs to bring them within two runs.
“We definitely went through adversity but we found a way to come out of it by staying together and knew our strengths and had to make sure we were playing to those,” Zaskoda said. “Sometimes you get tough innings like that and you just can’t let it get to you because that’s baseball, it just happens sometimes.”
Tanner Stilts replaced Zaskoda on the mound in the top of the sixth after Sealy stranded men at the corners in the bottom of the fifth. El Campo opened the inning with a single that the runner managed to turn into a triple thanks to an error.
Despite the hot start to the inning, the Ricebirds couldn’t capitalize and Sealy worked out of the sixth allowing no runs.
Sealy widened their lead in the bottom of the sixth as Garret Zaskoda scored a run off a triple, Brennan Brandes drove in another run with a single on the next at-bat and scored a third from a fielder’s choice.
Stilts closed out the 13-8 win for the Tigers as Eckhardt led the team with three walks and Kelley led with four RBI. Zaskoda struck out eight in five innings.
“It was an ugly win but we still found a way to win and that’s what is really important,” Head Coach Dane Bennett said. “Playoff baseball is all about winning despite adversity and we had a lot of energy and excitement and we caught that spark and that’s when a lot of good things will happen for you.”
The second game of the series was far less competitive with the Tigers quickly jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning after Eckhardt scored from third thanks to a groundout by Devin Aguado. Eckhardt walked to open the game.
Aguado’s effort from the plate was helping his own cause from the mound as he pitched the entire game. In seven innings, the senior left-hander allowed just three hits, striking out six. Aguado gave up six walks during his outing but the Tigers defense came up big behind him, turning three double plays in the game, keeping the Ricebirds from gaining any momentum.
The Tigers did add on to their one-run lead and in the second inning, the offense sent 11 batters to the plate, scoring six runs. To lead off the inning, seven straight batters reached base putting the Tigers up 6-0 before they record an out.
Chris Wright and Hunter Kelley were the only Tigers to pick up a hit in the inning, a single each, as the team took advantage of two hit-by-pitches, two walks and two errors to help them separate themselves from the Ricebirds early.
El Campo tried to get back in the game in the following half-inning. With one out and the loaded the bases, the Ricebirds five-hole hitter grounded into a double play and Aguado kept El Campo off the scoreboard.
Sealy was also scoreless until the final two innings when they added on six more runs to their lead to complete the 12-0 shutout. Kelley again led the team with 4 RBI as Aguado, Eckhardt and Zaskoda had two walks each.
Sealy will face Fredericksburg in the second round of the playoffs with all their games being played in Georgetown. The first game will be on Friday with first pitch scheduled for 7 p.m.