While the Granbury Pirates scored a plethora of runs in finishing off Waco University on the Trojans’ home field Saturday, defense was the outstanding factor in the series sweep.
The 4A bidistrict baseball conquest sends the Pirates (17-13) into an area-round matchup against Wichita Falls Rider (25-6). The Raiders won the 2011 Class 4A state championship.
Granbury is advancing to the area round for the first time since 2009, Brad Hart’s first season as head coach.
“I knew defense was going to be a big deal,” said Hart. “We had some heads-up plays that got us out of jams. They made some big hits, but we hunkered down. We kept them from gaining any momentum.”
Friday’s 1-0 victory at Tidwell Field featured an outstanding pitching performance by Granbury’s Nathan Hickey and some sterling defense behind him. Miles Wagner drove home the winning run with a one-out single in the eighth.
Hickey (7-2) hurled a three-hitter. He also combined with first baseman Tristan Fallin for a clutch pickoff in the top of the seventh inning.
Fallin also had an alert play to tag a runner out when a throw almost got by him in the fifth.
The Pirates also turned a pair of double plays, one in the top of the eighth to squelch a University scoring opportunity. The other was after center fielder Wagner caught a fly ball and immediately fired to Fallin to double off a runner who had fallen down.
Saturday’s 14-3 blowout to end the series featured a 4-for-4 performance at the plate from Dustin Arnett, who had a pair of triples and a double. It also featured a diving catch by Fallin, who came up with a faceful of dirt and the ball for the final out of the first inning when University (17-12) had a runner at third base.
“That changed the tone of the game,” said winning pitcher Wagner (8-3), who also hit his team-leading ninth triple.
“The way we got that guy out changed the pace of the game.”
Ironically, it was a rare Granbury error that put the runner on third.
“I noticed right after that first inning they got their heads down,” said Hickey.
After Granbury scored four runs in the top of the third for a 5-0 lead, University rallied for two runs with one out. The rally ended, however, with a fielder’s choice and strikeout.
“They were up talking, ready to go, but we made plays behind Miles,” said Hickey.
“If we let them score six or seven runs, they might have had a chance,” said Arnett. “They’re one of those teams that likes to stick around and get you in the end.”
The Trojans had their share of big hits. However, each time it would seem they were ready to mount a serious scoring threat, the Granbury defense would again shut them down.
A double to lead off the fifth was followed by the runner being picked off in a rundown. In the second inning, with runners at first and third, a runner was picked off at first.
And, in that same inning, Wagner got a batter to fly out to right after throwing three balls with no strikes to him.
Hart said the defense helped lead to the offensive outburst in the second game as the Pirates had 14 hits, including two doubles, three triples and Fallin’s fourth home run of the season.
“A guy makes a great play, everybody gets jacked up, you come to the dugout…,” Hart said.
The Granbury defense rose to a higher level during the most critical time of the season – as did the offense. The combination of the two were key in an 8-6 11-inning win over Southwest to clinch a playoff berth, and an 11-0 shellacking of Arlington Heights to secure third place.
Hart won a coin flip and opted for a single game against Rider instead of a best-of-three series.
“We’ve got two guys who can get people out,” said Hart. “If we can scratch out a run or two, we’ll see what happens.”
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Class 4A bidistrict baseball
Waco University 000 000 00 – 0 3 1
Granbury 000 000 01 – 1 5 1
Granbury pitching – Nathan Hickey (7-2) 8 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts.
University pitching – Byron Pyburn 7 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts; Edward Ibarra (3-1) 1/3 inning, 3 hits, 1 earned run, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts.
Granbury hitting – Payton Rhodes 1-3; Hickey 1-4; Wagner 1-3, walk, RBI; Landon Gray 1-2, walk.
University hitting leader – Roman Rodriguez 2-2, double.
Granbury 014 243 – 14 14 1
University 002 001 – 3 9 2
Granbury pitching – Wagner (8-3) 6 innings, 9 hits, 3 earned runs, 7 walks, 4 strikeouts.
Granbury hitting – Daniel Arnett 4-4, 2 triples, double, 3 RBIs; Rhodes 2-3, walk, hit by pitch, 3 RBIs; Hickey 2-5, double, 2 RBIs; Gray 2-3, walk, RBI; Tristen Fallin 2-4, home run, RBI; Wagner 1-4, triple, 2 RBIs; Caleb Bendewald 1-4, RBI.
University hitting leaders – Ibarra 2-3, double, triple, RBI; Jason Guerrero 2-3, double, RBI.
Records – Granbury 17-13, University 17-12.