Shoemaker won the Wolf Pack Classic without even playing in the championship game.
So did Harker Heights.
After producing dramatic victories in the semifinals, the Knights and Grey Wolves agreed to forgo a title game, electing instead to conclude the tournament as co-champions.
On the heels of playing five games in three days and with District 8-5A play beginning Tuesday, neither head coach was prepared to risk a potential district victory for a tournament trophy.
“(By this point) you’ve run your pitch counts up, and instead of trying to use some different pitchers and getting ourselves into some kind of trouble, we decided to settle on a co-championship,” Harker Heights head coach Glenn Cunningham said. “I thought it was a first-class way to do it. It benefits both of us by not extending some of those other pitchers and getting somebody hurt before Tuesday.”
Shoemaker head coach Harry Zambrana was in complete agreement in regards to district competition trumping a tournament title.
"Yes, everyone wanted to see us play the championship game, however, that game was not in the best interest of our ball clubs as we need to prepare and be healthy for district," Zambrana said.
Harker Heights shortstop Cody Plagens, who delivered a game-winning hit in the semifinals, is anxious to determine an unofficial champion once the teams collide in district.
“When it really counts, we’ll both have our best pitchers on the mound, and we’ll see who is the better team then,” the senior said of the March 19 district game.
In the semifinal games leading up the decision, both teams displayed a flair for the dramatic.
Harker Heights (5-4) fell into an immediate 1-0 hole against Lorena, but spent the next three innings alternating runs with the Leopards to enter the fifth inning tied 2-2. The score remained deadlocked through the seventh inning before Plagens’ RBI sent courtesy runner Damion May across home plate, giving the Knights a 3-2 victory.
Not to be outdone, the Grey Wolves (6-4) delivered a game-winning hit of their own against Burnet in the bottom of the seventh inning to earn a 3-2 win in the other semifinal.
The Bulldogs, who defeated Shoemaker 13-3 during pool play Friday, claimed an early 2-0 lead, but saw it evaporate in the bottom of the third inning when Jamie Funk and John Gueits each scored to tie the game. The 2-2 tie held until the seventh inning, when Broderick Reed, who hit a double in the previous at bat, was sent home thanks to Elijah Hilliard’s RBI single
“I wouldn’t have been able to get that game-winning hit if Broderick didn’t get that clutch double,” Hilliard said. “Once I saw that, it really just fired me up to follow him and do the same so we could win it.”
While Hilliard was responsible for Shoemaker’s final hit, Reed had a solid outing, going 2 for 3, while teammate Robert Delgado was also 2 for 3 with an RBI.
Pitcher Caleb Dean led the way both offensively and defensively for the Knights by posting a 2-for-3 hitting performance with a run, while striking out eight batters in seven innings before Sheppard Mayo replaced him in the eighth inning and collected the victory.
Harker Heights won all five of its tournament games by a combined score of 33-11.
“District is what counts,” Zambrana said. “I’m just happy for these kids. ... I’m pleased with the tournament and the way it ended.”
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org