BELTON — Belton broke open a tie game with a five-run sixth inning and the Tigers took advantage of the UIL’s new pitch-count rule to pick up their first District 8-6A win of the season, 9-4 over Harker Heights on Friday night.
“We’ve talked about this being a young and inexperienced team, well that team grew up tonight,” first-year Belton coach Mark Krueger said. “We played a great team in Harker Heights. They’re the defending district champion. To be able to come out with a win, that’s a great win for these kids.”
With the score tied at 4 going into the bottom of the sixth inning, Knights ace Daniel Cole reached his 110-pitch limit after walking the Tigers’ Logan Earl to give Belton (6-9, 1-1) runners on first and second with one out. Tre Martin entered in relief for Heights and proceeded to walk the next three batters, bringing across a pair of runs. Aaron Krueger then smacked a two-run double and Drew Cook followed with a sacrifice fly for the final tally.
“(Cole) hit his pitch count. It was kind of reversed roles from Tuesday. They had to do the same thing,” Heights coach Randy Culp said, referring to the Knights’ 3-1 victory earlier in the week in which Belton starter Shane Mejia also reached his pitch count in a critical sixth inning. “Normally we bring (Martin) in and he’s solid as a rock. He just couldn’t find it there for a couple batters and it hurt us. Obviously you want to leave Daniel in there, but we all have to deal with this new pitch-count rule. We’ll work through it.”
Cole, making his first pitching appearance of the season, gave up six runs on 10 hits with six strikeouts and five walks over 5 1/3 innings for Heights (4-9, 1-1).
Remington Lutz (2-2) went the distance on the mound for the Tigers. He gave up four runs on six hits, struck out five and walked two.
“I think we played great,” Lutz said. “The defense was on. We came in with the bats early and just hammered it, we stayed consistent throughout the game.”
Heights got on the board first in the top of the first after Cole led off the game with a double into right and later scored on a flare single to center by Martin.
Belton tied it in the bottom of the second when Cameron Porter, courtesy-running after a Lutz double, scored on a sac fly by Krueger.
The Tigers took the lead an inning later when Caleb Smith, Payton Vybiral and Breck Potvin led off the bottom of the third with consecutive doubles to make it 3-1.
“Belton hit the ball well all game. Hats off to them,” Culp said. “They got some big hits early, scored some runs. They just hit the ball where we weren’t. That’s baseball.”
Belton added a run in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single by Krueger to make it 4-1 but Heights tied it in the top of sixth with a bases loaded walk and a two-run double by Zane Wallace. That set up Belton’s big output in the bottom of the inning.
“It definitely helps,” Mark Krueger said of putting up nine runs against the Knights. “We put up that many runs against what I feel is a great pitching staff and we played great defense tonight. That leads to a win.”