CORSICANA — On paper, Belton seemed to have the advantage over Tyler Lee entering Saturday afternoon’s Class 6A bi-district playoff baseball game at sunny James G. Price Field.
The 25-win Tigers challenged for the District 12-6A championship and had Temple College-bound senior left-hander Dylan Blomquist pitching. The sub-.500 Red Raiders sent sophomore righty Andrew Nick to the mound.
But Lee coach James Boxley had won a coin flip to force Belton into a single game instead of the best-of-three series that Tigers coach Mark Krueger preferred. Both sides knew anything could happen, and nothing went particularly well for Belton.
A lingering back injury forced Blomquist — the Tigers’ leading pitcher and batter — to leave the game altogether shortly after he allowed a two-run single in the second inning, and Nick scattered three singles during a complete-game masterpiece in Lee’s 5-0 win that stopped Belton’s season.
“You have to give credit to their pitcher. He shut us down. When you get three hits, you’re not going to win many games,” Krueger said. “That’s frustrating, because we can do a better job at the plate. But when you play a one-gamer, you never know what you’re going to get.”
Preston Rozner had two singles and Chase Fentress one for 12-6A runner-up Belton (25-7-1), which had advanced to the area round every season from 2015 to ’18 but didn’t have a runner reach second base Saturday.
“It’s tough with all that hard work we had in the offseason,” Blomquist said. “I’ve created a bond and friendships with these guys.”
Lee (15-15-1), 11-6A’s No. 3 seed, will battle fourth-ranked Prosper (29-6) in a best-of-three series after the Red Raiders — again hoping for a single game — lost a postgame coin flip.
Boxley rolled the proverbial dice with Nick (6-3), a sophomore who gave Lee an ace-level performance. He got a seventh-inning double play and faced 22 batters, one above the minimum.
“It worked out. You kind of feel bad about (the format), but we won every flip and just had to win a ballgame. Our kids showed up and played well,” said Boxley, whose team compiled 10 hits and played errorless defense. “Nick’s a work in progress, but he’s had a heck of a year. When you pound the strike zone and play well defensively, you’re in every ballgame.”
Nick mixed well-located fastballs and off-speed pitches to strike out four and walk none.
“I’ve done this before, so I didn’t feel nervous. Just pound the zone and let my defense work,” he said.
Rozner ripped a two-out single in the top of the first, but Nick promptly picked him off. Blomquist (7-3) fired a first-inning fastball past Koen Kissinger for his 100th strikeout of the season, then allowed Trevor Doke’s two-out single and walked Angel Rodriguez before Colby Harris flew out. However, Lee got to Blomquist for four straight one-out singles in the second, capped by Tyler Hittle’s two-run hit to right-center for a 2-0 lead. Blomquist prevented further damage with a strikeout and a groundout, but his lower back pain was too much to overcome.
“I was hurting pretty bad. It’s been hurting for the last month or two.
I’ve played through it, but the past couple weeks it’s gotten a lot worse,” said Blomquist, also a center fielder with a .455 batting average. “I was getting frustrated trying to get them out. It didn’t work out.”
After giving Blomquist a chance to play, Krueger replaced him with junior righty Jace Stephen to begin the third.
“In one game, you want to throw your best guy,” Krueger said. “Dylan’s been our guy all year long. Unfortunately he just didn’t have it today.”
Stephen issued three consecutive walks in the third before Garrett Newberry’s two-run single made it 4-0. Stephen struck out three in four innings, allowing Doke’s sixth-inning RBI double.
“I apologized to our seniors, because a lot of them will never play baseball again,” Krueger said. “But credit to them. They won 25 games. We had guys step up.”
SATURDAY’S HIGH SCHOOL PLAYOFF SCORES
Class 6A bi-district
- Copperas Cove 5, Rockwall 4
- Rockwall 16, Copperas Cove 1, Rockwall wins series 2-1
- Rockwall-Heath 19, Ellison 0
- Rockwall-Heath 13, Ellison 2, Rockwall-Heath wins series 2-1
- Tyler Lee 5, Belton 0, Tyler Lee advances
Class 4A bi-district
- Wimberley 3, Salado 0, Wimberley wins series 2-0
- Lampasas 2, Boerne 1, Lampasas advances