MUMFORD - Shane Ward did what was needed.
But at the end of the game, the Belton senior was bent over along the third-base line nearly inconsolable. His Tigers once again watched District 12-5A rival Bryan rip victory from their grasp.
"This was my last game, man, and I've been playing with these guys since we were 5 or 6, so it was just tough knowing it was over, that we're never going to play another baseball game again," Ward said. "I was just trying to deal with that in my own head."
After relieving starter Hunter Houston in the third, Ward held the Vikings to one run over the next 5 2/3 innings. But Bryan's Austin Gallego connected on a walk-off, two-RBI double for a 6-5, eight-inning Game 2 victory to sweep their best-of-three Region II-5A quarterfinal series Saturday at Pete J. Bienski Jr. Stadium.
"Going out like that on a walk-off hit, it's tough," said Belton senior Max Hogan, who twice put the Tigers on top with RBI hits. "Especially knowing you're not going to be back next year."
Despite being an out shy of forcing Game 3 after Hogan's RBI double put the Tigers ahead 5-4 in the top of the eighth, Belton (19-14) was swept in all four contests against the Vikings (27-6) this season, twice in district play and twice in the regional quarterfinals.
"One out away and one pitch away … you're one out away from moving on to Game 3 and giving yourself a chance, and it's disheartening," said Belton skipper Eddie Cornblum.
The Vikings scored two runs in the bottom of the first and Chandler Russell had an RBI single to build a 3-1 lead entering the third.
After Houston allowed the first two Bryan batters to reach base in the bottom half of the inning, Ward was summoned from left field and quickly got three outs.
The Tigers scored two runs on a bunt back to the mound by Ward. Vikings starter Marshall Laine rushed the throw to first, allowing Walker Winders and Joe Pare to score.
"I was just trying to get a bunt down and move guys over because we had the 2-3-4 guys coming up to drive them in, but luckily I put it in the right spot and the pitcher just airmailed it I guess," said Ward, who gave Belton its first lead of the series, 4-3, scoring on a sacrifice fly by Hogan.
Bryan got to Ward with another RBI infield hit from Russell in the bottom of the sixth inning to force extra innings. But Hogan sent the first pitch he saw in the eighth inning down the line in right field for a two-out RBI double and a 5-4 Belton lead.
"I'm a senior, my last hurrah, and I wanted to go out there and drive in the run and get it done," Hogan said. "I knew he was going to throw a first-pitch fastball, and he threw it middle-in and I just hammered it out there."
Due to a defensive shift that brought Belton right fielder Jared Pickens in a few steps to avoid any bloop hits, the Tigers were caught out of position when Gallego flared the ball inches above Pickens outstretched glove.
"I thought he was going to catch it. ... I thought it was done and we were going to Game 3," said Bryan coach David Powers.
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7566