Ellison’s Preston Mills took a loss from Belton last year at home and was out for redemption as he moved from center field to the mound as the starting pitcher for the Eagles on Friday night.
Mills threw five complete innings with eight strikeouts and led Ellison to a 7-1 victory over the Tigers.
“I just went out there trying to fill out the strike zone,” Mills said of his first start since tournament play early in the season. “I just wanted to get us a win and keep us alive for a playoff run.
“It was a team effort. I couldn’t do this if I didn’t have my team behind me.”
The bats woke up early for the Eagles as second baseman Kenneth Rodriguez knocked an RBI triple into left-center field to put Ellison ahead 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning.
Edward Eakin followed with a ground ball up the middle for a base hit that brought home Rodriguez, and the Eagles led 2-0 over the Tigers.
Looking to keep the streak going, Mica’H Harris lined a shot up the middle, grazing Tigers’ starting pitcher Dylan Blomquist’s glove, and into the outfield for a two-run single.
The Eagles ended the inning ahead 4-0.
“We’re staying on the ball and hitting it up the middle of the field,” Eagles head coach Ty Opperman said. “We took advantage of the mistakes they made, kind of like they did Tuesday.”
A double steal in the bottom of the fourth put two runners in scoring position as Eakin was at the plate.
Blomquist walked Eakin and the bases were loaded with Mills up to bat. Mills tapped one toward the Belton pitcher, who slipped trying to turn the play at first.
Blomquist’s throw went high over Drew Cook’s reach at first, allowing the Eagles to bring in two more runs before Eakin was tagged out sliding at home. Ellison led 7-1 at the end of the fourth inning.
Ellison kept Belton from scoring in the second inning after two runners got on base. A pop fly into foul territory sent Harris, Eakin and Rodriguez chasing down the ball. Harris slid to make the catch and held his glove up to the cheers of the crowd, but Reese Perry was able to advance to third, putting runners on the corners for Belton.
“That play down right field was probably one of the best defensive plays I’ve seen in 21 years of coaching,” Oppermann said of Harris’ catch. “Unbelieveable play.”
Mills quickly sat the next two batters before the Tigers could score.
An error in the top of the third allowed Belton to score with the bases loaded, a pop fly to shortstop Julien Jimenez helped the Eagles keep the Tigers from catching up.
Mills hit the UIL pitch limit in the top of the sixth and designated hitter Zachary Young came in to close out the game on the mound.
And while Mills is proud of the outing he had, he attributes the win to his defense.
“It’s honestly just our bond and our trust in each other,” he said. “Everyone’s there to do a job and execute and that’s what really helped us win tonight.
“It feels good to get a win with me on the mound.”
Ellison improved to 6-6 in District 8-6A with the victory and will close the season next week with a series against league leader Waco Midway.
“They aren’t going to lay down,” Oppermann said of his players. “They want to stay in this playoff hunt.”
FRIDAY'S 8-6A BASEBALL
- Copperas Cove 6, Killeen 3
- Ellison 7, Belton 1
- San Angelo Central 13, Harker Heights 8
- Waco Midway 6, Shoemaker 2
x-Waco Midway 12-0
Copperas Cove 8-4
San Angelo Central 7-5
Harker Heights 3-9
x-clinched district championship