DENTON – It was only one inning, but Granbury baseball coach Brad Hart is already using it as motivation for next season for his team.
The Pirates trailed by five runs after surrendering three unearned scores in the top of the seventh against Wichita Falls Rider in their Class 4A area-round playoff game.
In their final at-bat and last hope of the season, the Pirates rallied for a pair of runs and had the bases loaded with the go-ahead run at the plate.
While the possibility of a heroic ending was thwarted by a ground out to the pitcher to secure a 5-2 Rider victory, Hart noted his team’s tenacity in the face of a huge deficit.
“Early in the game we were aggressive, but we were trying so hard at having good approaches at the plate we were always hitting it right at someone.
“In that last inning we had the mentality, ‘I’m going to go up and do this like I know how.’
“It was just one inning, but I believe we can keep it going into next season.”
The Pirates (17-14) lose four seniors from the starting lineup, including the entire starting outfield. Fittingly, Hart said, Miles Wagner, Tyler Titus, Brady Retz and Caleb Bendewald ended their high school careers with a base hit each.
“Look at those seniors, their last AB (at-bat) was a hit. That’s a real cool thing,” said Hart.
Wagner, in fact, had a double, the Pirates’ only extra-base hit of the game. He scored on a single by freshman Landon Gray.
“We’re just a fighting team that fought to the end,” said Gray.
“That last inning was a good example.
“I guess we waited a little too long to bring the bats out, though. But we’re going to pick each other up and just be better next year.”
The Pirates’ offensive difficulties also had a little something to do with Rider pitcher Austin Hagy. While he wasn’t overpowering, striking out just two, he got Pirate batters to consistently hit fly ball outs – 10 in the first five innings.
“We couldn’t do it at the right time. We couldn’t get anything to fall,” said Bendewald.
Until the bottom of the seventh, when they chased Hagy from the game with back-to-back hits and a run to open the inning. They then got to reliever David Pewenofkit for three more hits and another run.
The Pirates did, however, continue to play stellar defense as they have done quite a bit lately. They got one runner out in a right field-to-third-second rundown in the second, another out in a right field to first to catcher relay in the third, picked off a runner at first, and caught another stealing.
That was through the first six innings. Then, with two out in the top of the seventh, a pair of errors turned a 2-0 deficit into a 5-0 disadvantage.
“I know people say it, but this game really was a lot closer than the score says,” said Bendewald. “If we could have just kept it at two runs, we’d still be playing.”
In fact, Rider (26-6) scored its second run while the player was being chased down between second and third to end the second inning.
The Pirates advanced their deepest in the postseason since 2009, when they also reached the area round and lost in a single-game playoff to Denton Guyer.
Granbury, after a third-place finish in District 7-4A, began the postseason by sweeping 8-4A runner-up Waco University 1-0 and 14-3. No one in 7-4A advanced deeper in the playoffs than Granbury, with district champion Aledo also reaching the second round.
“It was a good season, 17 wins is the most we’ve had since 2009, and it’s the highest batting average (.343) is the highest since I’ve been here,” said Hart, who became GHS head coach in 2009 and has led them to the postseason four times in five seasons.
In fact, the Pirates’ batting average was more than a hundred points over their .240 team average in 2012.
Also, Granbury pitcher Nathan Hickey, a junior, struck out seven Saturday, giving him 98 for the season in 75 innings.
Sophomore Daniel Arnett led the Pirates in batting, posting an average of .426. He shared the home run lead with freshman Tristen Fallin, each with four.
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Class 4A area-round baseball playoff
WF Rider 020 000 3 – 5 10 2
Granbury 000 000 2 – 2 7 2
Granbury pitching – Nathan Hickey (7-3) 7 innings, 10 hits, 5 runs (2 earned), 3 walks, 2 hit batters, 7 strikeouts.
Rider pitching – Austin Hagy (7-3) 6 innings, 4 hits, 2 earned runs, 0 walks, 2 strikeouts; David Pewenofkit 1 inning, 3 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 1 strikeout.
Granbury hitting – Tyler Titus 2-3; Hickey 1-3; Milew Wagner 1-3, double; Landon gray 1-3, RBI; Caled Bendewald 1-3; Brady Retz 1-3.
Rider hitting – Nick Russell 2-3, 2 doubles, walk, RBI; Dylan Hutchison 2-4, 2 RBIs; Jordan McQuery 2-3; Mason Stone 1-4; Pewenofkit 1-3, walk, RBI; Casey Wissinger 1-3, Hagy 1-3.
Records – Granbury 17-14, Rider 26-6.