WEST — Belton couldn’t have asked for a much better start than it got out of right-handed pitcher Reese Perry, whose command of the strike zone with his repertoire of pitches limited Cedar Hill to four hits in a complete-game performance.
But even with the textbook outing, the Tigers’ season now hinges on the brink of finality in the first week of the playoffs.
Longhorns lefty Brandon Farrell matched Perry pitch for pitch Thursday evening at Trojan Field, where a fast-moving pitchers’ duel lasted 10 minutes less than the rain delay that pushed back the start time of the teams’ opening game of a best-of-three Class 6A bi-district series by 1½ hours.
Farrell closed out a three-hit shutout by retiring the Tigers in order on three pitches — fly out, ground out, ground out — in the bottom of the seventh, sealing a 1-0 victory in an hour and 20 minutes for District 7-6A’s champion and pushing 8-6A’s fourth-seeded Tigers against elimination.
Game 2 is slated for 4 p.m. today back at Trojan Field. Game 3, if necessary is 4p.m. Saturday also at West.
“This is a perfect example of why you play two out of three. I think both teams are very evenly matched and we can’t wait to get back on the field tomorrow,” Belton coach Mark Krueger said.
Nobody spent much time Thursday on West’s all-turf field, which absorbed heavy rainfall, with the way Perry and Farrell quickly dealt with opposing batters.
They each allowed a first-inning single, then the offensive wells went dry for much of the duration while the pitchers mostly worked with the count in their favor and relied on a pair of defenses that didn’t commit an error.
Perry finished with five strikeouts and two walks for the Tigers (12-15-3). Farrell tallied four strikeouts and didn’t allow a walk in bumping up his record to 7-0. There were no extra base hits.
“After the first inning and it was done in five minutes, I figured it was going to be a pretty quick game — a low-scoring game, which is usually how it is when I pitch because there’s always the other ace on the mound. So, glad we got the win,” Farrell said. “Tomorrow is a new day, of course, and (Belton) will be ready to go. So, we’ll got try to get that win so there’s not a third game.”
Neither team recorded their second hits until the fifth, when Tony Gonzalez’s infield single for Cedar Hill didn’t amount to anything more and Shawn Butler’s base hit to left to lead off Belton’s half of the frame went for naught after the senior second baseman was stranded at second following Drew Cook’s sacrifice bunt and two ground outs. Bulter was Belton’s only base runner of three to advance past first base.
The Longhorns (14-8-1) broke through in the sixth, using Kamdyn Benjamin’s single and his wheels on the base paths.
Benjamin stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch before scurrying home on Kayden Berkof’s fly out to left for the lasting 1-0 advantage.
“(Perry) pitched well, defense played well. That’s all you can ask,” Krueger said. “We hit some balls hard right at people. And that’s just baseball.”