BELTON — The FCA Victory Bowl baseball game was a back-and-forth battle before the Red team won 8-6 Friday night at Red Murff Field on the campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Team Red included Belton’s Aaron Krueger, Copperas Cove’s Cameron Johnson, Gatesville’s Ryan Stovall and Harker Heights’ Tre Martin.
Team Blue was made up of Florence’s Matt Edgar and Killeen’s Bo Buckley and Julian Jasmin. Salado’s Jacob Wilk and Drew Dobbins were selected for the team as well but were not in attendance.
Edgar got the start on the mound for the Blue team, which made the game a bit extra special for him.
“It meant a lot considering these are all great players,” he said.
Red quickly took the lead with an RBI double from Carson Bell of China Springs.
With the bases loaded in the bottom of the second, the Blue team tied the game when pitcher Jayce Green walked Edgar.
Green walked a second hitter, allowing Buckley to score the Blue team’s second run and take a 2-1 lead.
In the Blue team’s next at-bat, Garrett Kilcrease of Kerens hit a two-run home run that extended Blue’s lead to 4-1.
Throughout the game, the all-stars rotated and alternated their positions in order to give each player a chance to play.
“The kids were relaxed, but still competitive,” said Copperas Cove head coach Dusty Brittain, who was selected to help lead the Red team. “It was great to hear kids say, ‘I’ll do this, this inning. I’ll do that.’”
“Most people out here play a lot of positions so we’re used to moving around,” Buckley said, as he played an inning at shortstop, third base and pitched.
Red rallied in the top of the fourth as it put five runs on the board including a base hit from Martin that helped give the Red team a 6-4 lead.
Blue answered in the bottom of the inning by bringing a run in on an error.
The Blue team tied the game 6-6 by the end of the sixth inning.
“That makes it more exciting,” Brittain said of the close score. “Nobody likes a blowout.”
It became a battle of the pitchers as the tie-breaking run didn’t come until the top of the eighth inning when Moody’s Cody McNiel popped one into shallow right field for an RBI double that allowed Stovall to come home.
The ball got away from Kilcrease, allowing Gonzales to come home and extend the Red team’s lead to 8-6.
The players also enjoyed battling back-and-forth with the score close the entire way.
“It keeps you on your toes,” Buckley said. “In tight situations like that you have to play as a team and you have to make the plays that need to be made.”
Martin agreed, adding, “It was really refreshing. Plus, we had a full crowd here. It was packed, so it was cool to have all those eyes watch a great game.”
“We hung in there for awhile but that’s just the way things worked out,” Buckley added.
Buckley pitched the top of the ninth for the Blue team.
“It was an honor to be able to pitch one inning for this team,” he said of the opportunity.
Johnson took the mound in the bottom of the ninth for the Red team and kept the Blue team from coming back.
The atmosphere of the Victory Bowl allows these athletes — some playing their last baseball game — the chance to come out and enjoy the game.
“It’s a really positive environment,” Martin said. “It’s great to just come out and have some fun with friends that you’ve met and build relationships that will probably last even after this game.
“You meet a lot of great people. I love that.”
While these athletes enjoy coming together to compete in the Victory Bowl, they take a lot more away from the entire experience.
All the players agreed that they’ve grown stronger in their faith and are thankful for relationships they built over the week.
“I wish the best of luck to all these guys,” Edgar said. “I made a lot of friends.”