CORSICANA — It was a difficult situation, but Harker Heights pulled through.
After having Game 1 postponed due to inclement weather in the fifth inning Thursday night and resuming Friday, the Knights eventually fell in the lid-lifter 4-0 to Allen to fall behind 1-0 in their Class 6A area-round series.
But they needed just one run in Game 2 on Friday to extend the set, as Daniel Cole threw a complete-game shutout in a 1-0 triumph.
Cole surrendered five hits, walked one and struck out five on 103 pitches.
While the strikeouts weren’t accumulated at a rate Cole is used to seeing, he wasn’t worried about sitting the Eagles down on strikes, but rather just recording outs.
“We’re really young,” Cole said of the team. “But I have a lot of confidence on the mound, for sure, because we’ve gotten progressively better throughout the season. I think our hard work and dedication throughout the whole season, that has led us up to this, has given us a lot of confidence.
“That’s how I feel on the mound. I’m confident with my defense behind me and with this guy (catcher Jackson Rinehart) behind the plate. He’s gotten a whole lot better behind the plate in just calming me down and just some little things.
“It’s not necessarily throwing everybody out or blocking every pitch, it’s the little things like calming me down, working with me and keeping people close. He’s done a great job with that, and that’s why I pitch with the confidence I have.”
Cole pitched the second game because Knights head coach Randy Culp wanted to save him and No. 2 starter Jacob Mitchell for Games 2 and 3, respectively.
Justin Gordon pitched in Game 1 and gave his team exactly what it asked for. He threw a six-inning complete game and allowed four runs on three hits and three walks with four strikeouts in the loss.
“He put us in a position to win the game,” Culp said. “If we get a hit here and there, it’s a different game. I’m really proud of his performance, especially since he hasn’t had many innings since earlier in the year.
“I can’t say enough about him coming in and being able to do that, even though we didn’t get the win.”
Gordon’s performance was also respected by his teammates.
“Justin did a great job,” Cole said. “It’s his first time starting since tournament play, and he came out and did what we all expected him to. It’s not easy for a senior to sit for a lot of the season and not get in as much, and then to come into a Round 2 playoff game, it’s got to be crazy for him.
“He told us on the way home last night that’s the most his heart has ever raced.”
In Game 2, small ball was needed to get the job done.
Cole led off the bottom of the fourth with a double deep down the left-field line. Rinehart moved him to third base on a sacrifice bunt and, two batters later, Mitchell hit a hard smash to third that went for an error and allowed Cole to score the game’s lone run.
Cole and Rinehart did an excellent job of keeping Allen’s aggressive base running in check.
Rinehart made many pickoff attempts behind runners at first base to keep them close, and Cole picked off two runners.
“You’ve just got to execute,” Rinehart said. “Just have to keep them close, and I just wanted to help keep Daniel calm on the mound. Just get him to keep calm, throw strikes and keep the runners close — all the little things he talked about.”
Allen starting pitcher Cole Maxwell threw a six-inning complete game in Game 2. He surrendered two hits and walked one while striking out three.
In Game 1, the Eagles (23-11) got on the board in the first inning on a sac fly to center by Maxwell. They extended the lead to 2-0 in the third, as Joey Crisci lined an RBI single to left.
Play was suspended with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. After it resumed Friday, Crisci gave Allen some insurance in the sixth with a two-run home run to left to make the score 4-0.
Eagles starting pitcher Dylan Ditzenberger earned the win. He threw all seven innings and allowed just four hits and walked one while striking out six.
Game 3 is scheduled for today at 2 p.m. in Corsicana.
Rinehart, a sophomore in his first postseason for Harker Heights (15-14-1), is enjoying the ride.
“It’s awesome; I love it,” Rinehart said. “Nothing better than playing baseball in May.”