A few weeks ago the Ellison Eagles adopted a major-league mindset.
Seeking its first playoff trip since 2010, the Eagles treated each game like it was Game 7 of the World Series and shook up the 8-5A postseason picture in the process.
“When the second round of district started, our coach told us we needed to have a World Series mentality (if we were going to make the playoffs),” Ellison senior Caleb Moses said. “We had to win four games and force that Game 7, and this is basically that Game 7.”
Moses (2 for 2) knocked in four RBIs, including three on a bases-loaded double in the second inning, fellow senior Tyler Bark smacked a two-run home run in the first and Ellison held on despite Shoemaker’s five-run fifth-inning rally for a 7-5 win over the rival Grey Wolves in Friday’s regular-season finale.
“The first pitch I fouled off was high, ... and I knew it wasn’t going by me a second time,” Bark said of his lofting home run to left field. “I was ready, I saw it and hit it.”
The Ellison victory, coupled with Harker Heights’ 9-2 win over Copperas Cove also Friday, creates a logjam for the third- and fourth-place playoff spots in District 8-5A, and necessitates a three-way play-in series today at Killeen High.
Ellison (10-19, 7-7) and Shoemaker (15-12, 7-7) play first at 1 p.m. The winner advances to the playoffs while the loser plays Harker Heights (13-13, 7-7) at 4 p.m.. There is the potential for a 7 p.m. game between the two winners to determine seeding.
Given the Eagles’ win-or-else mentality of the last week, Allred feels pretty confident heading into today’s play-in scenario.
“We’re road-tested. We’ve been doing this for two weeks now where everything is on the line for us,” he said. “We’ve given ourselves a shot ... it’s just a continuaton of district and there’s no telling what’s going to happen.”
Grey Wolves skipper Harry Zambrana wouldn’t comment except to compliment Bark on his performance on the mound.
Shoemaker starter Roberto Delgado, nursing an injured finger to his throwing hand, couldn’t seem to keep the ball down, issuing five walks in a three-run first inning, including four straight that allowed Ellison pinch runner Taylor Jacobs to score on Landon Persick’s free pass. Delgado gave up two singles to open the second inning before being replaced by John Gueits, who only gave up three hits over the final five innings — two coming courtesy of Moses.
The Grey Wolves didn’t go quietly, though, exploding for five runs on five hits and taking advantage of a couple of Eagles errors in the top of the fifth.
Elijah Hilliard started it off with a bloop single to right field, moved to second on a sacrifice and then to third on a passed ball before leadoff hitter Jamie Funk (3 for 4) drilled the seventh offering from Bark to the right-center field gap for an RBI double.
After Gueits struck out, Raven Sauceda reached when a sharp liner rolled through the legs of Ellison shortstop Ethan Schaefnocker. Funk scored on the error. Delgado and Alberto Castro followed with long doubles to left and right field, respectively, to score Sauceda and Delgado, and Ramiro Gonzales ripped an 0-2 pitch up the middle for a single to plate Castro and pull within 7-5.
But Bark settled down, forcing three of the next nine Grey Wolves batters to fly out before erupting with a scream and a fist pump after ringing up Broderick Reed to end the game.
“It was pretty much win-or-go-home for us,” said Bark, who struck out nine in a complete-game seven-hitter, five of which came in the fifth inning.
“I’m just really proud. It’s a team effort, a team win.”