LAMPASAS — Graig Keeton got what he wanted, but not what he desired.
Following three years of frustration, Gatesville finally guaranteed itself a postseason game by beating Lampasas 4-3 Tuesday evening in the regular-season finale. The Hornets, however, did not secure a spot in the playoffs.
Despite defeating the Badgers, Gatesville is locked in a tie with Brownwood for District 8-3A’s fourth and final postseason berth, giving Keeton reason to celebrate, but only slightly.
“We are going to play another game,” the Hornets’ head coach said. “That’s all I know. … We’re going to have to play better to advance on into the playoffs, but I like what we did in two aspects tonight. We were on top defensively and on the mound, but we’re going to have to pick up the sticks if we want to keep playing.”
Gatesville limited Lampasas to three hits behind a nine-strikeout showing from Mitchell Chartier, but thanks to Brownwood’s 9-8 extra-inning victory against Burnet, it was not enough to clinch the team’s first playoff berth since reaching the regional quarterfinals in 2010.
After splitting the season series, the Hornets and Lions will play once more to determine who advances to face the District 7-3A champion in the opening round. Details regarding the game have not been finalized.
Knowing a loss would end its season, Gatesville (10-18-1, 3-7) jumped out on Lampasas as leadoff hitter Seth Martin scored in the first inning after
reaching base on a walk.
The one-run advantage held until center fielder Wyatt Crum’s standup triple sent teammate Jeff Speer across home plate, and Scott Shults followed with a sacrifice fly, giving the Hornets a 3-0 lead heading into the bottom of the third inning.
Lampasas had an opportunity to trim the deficit, but left a pair of runners stranded and the miscue came back to haunt the Badgers.
In the fourth inning, Andrew Wallace recorded the deciding run on Speer’s sacrifice fly, giving the Hornets just enough cushion to endure a rally from the Badgers.
Over the next two innings, Lampasas (4-18, 2-8) scored three unanswered runs, including a pair off a fielding error in the fourth, and the mood quickly changed.
“You never know if their nerves started getting to them,” Keeton said. “I was nervous, but with high school athletics, that is what it is all about. You get in there and compete, and you are going to get put in a pressure situation.”
The Hornets overcame any potential jitters, though, with Chartier striking out three consecutive batters to end the sixth inning, propelling them into a three-up, three-down seventh to close the game.
Right fielder Laine Wiggins led the Badgers offensively, going 2 for 3 with a RBI, while teammate Ralph Marez posted a single and scored a run.
Although his first season in Lampasas did not end as hoped, Badgers head coach Manny Perez believes a lot was accomplished during his debut with the team.
“We are very demanding as coaches, and it took a lot to convince people that it is for a good cause,” he said. “Tonight was a good showing of that intensity and that discipline we are trying to instill in the players at Lampasas.”