WACO — The momentum swung the wrong direction, like so many errant throws and dropped fly balls.
The Shoemaker Grey Wolves, playing in the baseball playoffs for the first time in school history, committed nine errors and Midlothian showed why it was the top seed out of District 7-5A with 10 runs in the seventh inning to rout the Grey Wolves 17-2 in a Region I-5A bi-district playoff game Friday at Baylor Ballpark.
Midlothian (24-7-1) scored 14 runs in the final three innings as the Grey Wolves committed eight of their errors, including five in the seventh, to advance to the second round against either Colleyville Heritage or Coppell.
“We played five strong innings of baseball and kind of fell apart in that long seventh inning,” said Shoemaker coach Harry Zambrana. “It was probably our worst defensive game we’ve ever played all season long. Unfortunately, it was probably the worst time we could possibly do it. But, hats off to the kids, they got us here. ... It’s a good season, a historic season for these kids, so we can’t hang our head too long about it.”
Shoemaker (16-12) trailed just 3-2 after the third inning and when sophomore relief pitcher Raven Sauceda shut down the Panthers in the fourth, the Grey Wolves were poised to make one of their comebacks that defined so many of their games this season.
But, instead of taking advantage, Shoemaker couldn’t stop the snowball of errors.
Midlothian scored one run on two errors in the fifth inning to go ahead 4-2 and then plated three more runs in the sixth on two hits and another error to take a 7-2 lead into the final inning, where the wheels finally came off of the Shoemaker playoff bus.
“We thought we’re about to come back and win this thing, we’re about to show them. This is what we do; we come back and win games, we’ve done it all year,” said Shoemaker senior second baseman Jamie Funk. “And, we fell a little short, just a little bit.”
Midlothian committed three errors, including two on a single play, that allowed Shoemaker to trim the Panthers’ 3-0 lead to 3-2 going into the fourth. Broderick Reed led off with a single and reached second on a ground out by Elijah Hilliard before Wade Corn struck out. Then, craziness.
Funk reached when Midlothian shortstop Jimmy Fouse dropped an infield pop-up. When Fouse picked up the ball, Funk was trapped between first and second, but Fouse’s routine throw to second to start the rundown was way off and ended up in shallow right field. Reed scored on the play and Funk was safe at second.
John Gueits then lined a single to right field, where the Grey Wolves struck gold again. Midlothian catcher Zach Humphreys dropped Heck’s throw from right field as Funk scored to pull Shoemaker to within a run.
“It was electric. The kids were excited, everything was going our way and I kind of felt like, ‘Here we go.’ ... I thought we were going to get the thing rolling and good things happened, it just kind of went the other way,” Zambrana said. “We’re used to when we get that little momentum, we just roll with it. Well, it kind of rolled the other way, today.”
But, in the fifth, Ethan Hallmark reached when Shoemaker center fielder Ramiro Gonzalez dropped his fly ball, and scored when first baseman Chris Alepuyo dropped Sauceda’s throw on Humphreys’ bunt.
In the sixth, the Panthers again scored on an error and Daniel Rushing and Hallmark had back-to-back run-scoring hits to left field as Midlothian stretched its lead to 7-2. Ethan Davis led off the inning with a five-pitch walk. Matt Horn followed with a bunt, but Alepuyo overthrew Funk covering first and that allowed Davis to score and Horn to reach third.
After the Grey Wolves registered two outs in the inning, Rushing hit a double to the left-field wall to score Horn. Hallmark then chopped his run-scoring single into shallow left field to score Rushing.
“We get down early, but we always fought this year to get back in it, like we were in the third inning,” said Hilliard, a senior designated hitter. “But, once we made that first error in the fifth inning, that’s when it all went downhill. ... It just wasn’t how we played all year.”