Pirates hold off Tech to set up showdown week

So far, so good.

Now comes the really hard part of the District 7-4A baseball schedule for the Granbury Pirates.

The Pirates (11-6 overall) ran their league record to 5-0 Friday with a 4-3 victory at Trimble Tech in Fort Worth. They entered last night’s game at Aledo, No. 7 in the state, tied for first place with Arlington Heights, with Aledo one game behind.

Granbury hosts Heights Friday. The Yellowjackets handed Aledo its only district loss, 2-1 in Fort Worth.

And while folks have been looking to this week since the season started, Granbury coach Brad Eppler said Friday’s close call should change their thinking.

“I think it shows that our TWO biggest games have now become our THREE biggest games,” he said. “I’m already looking ahead to when we see them again.

“Tonight we had to beat a pretty good team. The past four games have been over by the sixth inning.”

The Pirates had outscored their first four district opponents 52-5, including a 30-4 win at home over O.D. Wyatt.

“They’re (Tech) never going to be embarrassed,” Eppler said.

The Pirates held the Bulldogs (3-2 in 7-4A) to their lowest offensive output in district. Tech sits fourth in the league.

“They can swing it. They’re going to be a huge game next time around, too,” said Eppler.

Payton Rhodes’ ground-out RBI in the fifth inning provided the winning run, giving the Pirates a 4-2 lead at the time. It was one of two RBIs for him despite having no hits.

Pirate pitcher Nathan Hickey (4-0) went the distance, holding Tech to four hits, no earned runs and a walk. He struck out 12, giving him 56 on the season.

Hickey is vying to become only the third pitcher in Granbury history to strike out more than 100 batters in a season. Nathan Copeland holds the record with 139 in 2003, followed by Wade McClintock with 103 in 2012.

Hickey narrowly joining the select club when he struck out 99 last season.

“Nathan had big velocity on his (126th) pitch (final pitch of the game),” said Eppler, adding that Hickey’s finishing was critical in such a close game.

“We have some good pitchers, but any time a hitter is going to see 90 miles per hour in his first three at-bats, and then it drops 7 miles per hour in the fourth at-bat, that can be big.

“But keeping the ball coming at them at such a high velocity makes a big difference.”

Eighty-three of Hickey’s 126 pitches were strikes.

Hickey’s earned run average this season is a miniscule 0.61.

Tristan Fallin hit his second home run of the season and second in as many games, a two-run shot in the first inning. He also had a double, going 2-for-4.

“He’s just starting to let the ball travel a little bit, laying off bad pitches,” said Eppler of Fallin.

“If he’ll just watch his pitches, he’ll get a lot of good hits.”

Hickey had two hits, including a double, and Landon Weatherly was 2-for-4. Hickey leads the Pirates with a .561 average.

“You know you’re doing something great when you go .500 in a game and your average goes DOWN,” said Eppler with a chuckle.

Landon Gray continued his torrid play at the plate, belting a triple and walking. He’s batting .519 with a .618 on-base percentage.

In only his second game of the season, Daniel Arnett hit a double.

“He’s a little raw right now, but he’s going to be all right,” said Eppler. “He’s not coming out of the lineup.”

The Pirates jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the top of the first, but an error helped put Tech back in the contest, resulting in two runs.

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Granbury 300 010 0 – 4 8 3

Trimble Tech 200 001 0 – 3 4 1

Granbury pitching – Nathan Hickey (W 4-0) 7 innings, 4 hits, 3 runs (0 earned), 1 walk, 12 strikeouts.

Granbury hitting – Landon Weatherly 2-4, stolen base; Hickey 2-4, double; Tristan Fallin 2-4, double, home run, 2 RBIs; Landon Gray 1-3, triple, walk, stolen base; Daniel Arnett 1-3, double; Brendan King 2 walks, stolen base; Payton Rhodes 2 RBIs.

Granbury record – 11-6, 5-0 in 7-4A.