CAMERON — There’s not much Britton Hawes has to complain about nowadays.
And after going through a hitless stretch through the first half of district, one of Salado’s smallest players came up huge when his team needed him most.
Hawes was 2 for 2 at the plate, including driving in the go-ahead run with the game’s first extra-base hit in the top of the ninth inning, and started the game-ending double play to cap two innings of no-hit relief and earn the extra-innings win, 3-1, over host Cameron Yoe.
“In baseball … you have your days and I guess this was a day I was on,” Hawes said. “I can’t complain about today, it was a good day overall.”
The victory helped second-ranked Salado (25-3, 11-1 22-2A) secure up the District 22-2A championship with two games left — its first outright district championship since the 2008 state championship season.
“It feels really good, and I’m proud of our kids, and now we can focus on playoffs and finishing district the right way,” Eagles second-year head coach Chad Krempin said. “There are going to be some games like this down the road and hopefully we’ll win some more like this in some big spots.”
Yoemen left-hander Kylen Harrell had kept Salado’s usually hot bats in relative check through the game’s first 8 2/3 innings, only allowing a couple of cheap singles to that point — including a blooper to right field that dropped between three teammates for a third-inning RBI single for Jon Franz.
“Our two teams battled it out there tonight, it was a playoff atmosphere and somebody had to lose — you hate that it had to be us, but it’s nothing to hang your head about, the kids battled all night,” said Cameron coach John Broussard, whose second-place Yoemen had to knock off Salado to potentially force a split atop the standings.
But as Hawes strode to the plate with senior Reagan Bazar — who at 6-foot-7 is a full foot taller than him — standing on second base with two outs in the top of the ninth, the weight of his entire team hung on Hawes’ at-bat.
Expecting a breaking ball with Harrell’s first offering, Hawes roped a sure double to the left-center field gap that allowed Bazar to bound home for a 2-1 lead.
“As soon as he hit it I knew it was down and I was just hauling butt to home — it was pretty exciting,” Bazar said as several teammates emptied a bucket of cold water over Krempin’s shoulders in celebration.
“I just got tunnel vision, he hung a curve ball and I waited back and hit it to left field,” Hawes said. “I can’t complain. … It was a pitcher’s mistake and a hitter’s hit.”
Caden Eary, the Eagles’ No. 9 hitter, had to wait a few more pitches before following suit with a double over the head of Yoe centerfielder Michael Evan to score Hawes and give his pitcher some breathing room.
An inning-opening error by Franz at shortstop put one runner on, but, of course, Hawes wasn’t worried. After a strikeout of Colton Sheffield, Hawes induced Harrell to weakly line back to the mound, threw a strike to Franz at short, who in turn atoned for his earlier miscue by completing the 1-6-3 double play to end it.
“Our motto is ‘grind-mode,’ and to show (we can) go nine innings (after) being tied up after seven, and the whole team just battled through it, that’s grind-mode, that’s baseball,” Hawes said.
Hawes entered in the bottom of the eighth after seven sensational innings from starter Casey Frazier, who only had one bad inning — the fifth — when he let a pop-fly back to the mound drop for an infield single and then surrendered a two-out double to deep center by Yoemen leadoff hitter Jaime Dominguez for Cameron’s lone run. Frazier finished with seven strikeouts over seven innings, allowing just three hits.