COLLEGE STATION — Britton Hawes needed just one more strike.
Only this time, it never came.
Salado’s junior submarine pitcher put down seven of the first eight batters he faced in relief, but couldn’t get that final out. Centerville’s Jordan Cannon blooped a game-winning, two-RBI hit to shallow right field with two outs in the bottom of the seventh for a 4-3 victory in Game 1 of their best-of-three Region III-2A quarterfinal series Friday at Tiger Field.
“Bottom line, some of our guys didn’t execute when they needed to execute,” Salado head coach Chad Krempin said.
No. 2 Salado (29-5-1) needs a sweep today in order to advance, with Game 2 slated for 2 p.m. at Tiger Field. Game 3, if necessary, will be played 30 minutes after the completion of Game 2.
With the wind blowing in on the A&M Consolidated campus, hits were particularly hard to come by for both teams, especially with runners on base.
A week after rocking Anderson-Shiro for 12 runs on 16 hits, Salado stranded 11 runners, including with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth inning with just one out, as Trey Mohler popped up a bunt attempt and Jon Franz grounded out to third to end the threat.
“They gave us a lot of chances to have a little bit of distance and we just didn’t do it,” Krempin said. “We didn’t get clutch hits when we needed it, and we didn’t get bunts down when we had chances.”
Salado scored all three of its runs without ever making contact with the ball as Franz walked home in the top of the first inning on a sailed throw to second by Cannon, the Tigers catcher, and then scored again in the third on a passed ball by Centerville starter Ty Tollett to give the Eagles a 2-0 lead. Pinch-runner Jake Bloomer scored the go-ahead third run on a wild pitch in the top of the seventh to pull back on top 3-2 after the Tigers (23-6-2) rallied.
Salado 6-foot-7 senior starter Reagan Bazar struggled with control after retiring the first eight batters he faced, allowing Centerville’s No. 9 hitter Haden Nash to reach on a passed-ball strikeout and then walking the bases loaded before getting out of the third with a lazy groundout back to the mound.
The fifth inning is where it all fell apart for Bazar, who again loaded the bases with back-to-back walks — throwing eight of 10 pitches for balls — before being replaced by Hawes with one out.
Hawes' first offering, though, went wide left for a wild pitch as Wacey Brown scored from third to make it 2-1. A groundout to second base by Cade Harris tied it up one pitch later before Hawes induces Cannon into a groundout to third.
“The first pitch I threw was supposed to be a curveball and it wasn’t, it was a fastball and went right past Haag,” Hawes said.
Hawes didn’t get Cannon out as easily his next time up.
Nursing a 3-2 advantage in the bottom of the seventh, Hawes struck out pinch hitter Trevor Goolsby on three pitches and Nash grounded out to second for two quick outs.
Those was the last, though, as Ryan Payne sawed off a Texas-leaguer that landed just inside the first-base line in right field for a double. Harris drew walk on seven pitches and both advanced on another wild pitch by Hawes.
From there, Cannon battled through another long at-bat, fouling off two pitches for a 3-2 count before the registering the game’s first RBIs with another Texas-leaguer between second baseman Caden Eary and right fielder Davis Little in shallow right.
“That last inning, we thought we had them and then two Texas-leaguers, and you can’t really do anything about those,” Hawes said.