BELTON — Salado junior Jacob Wilk and his coach Kreece Cooper unknowingly used the same word to summarize the Eagles’ Class 4A Region III quarterfinal series against Robinson.
They both called it weird, referring to different aspects of what turned into two lopsided victories by the third-ranked Rockets, who wrapped up the sweep Friday with an 8-0 victory at Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Red Murff Field to advance to the regional semifinals.
Wilk went with weird to illustrate the feeling of being eliminated from the postseason in the third round, one year after an appearance in the state championship game. Cooper, who led the Eagles to an 18-13 record in his first season, used it to describe the game of baseball and all its intricacies, many Salado struggled to execute during a pair of games in which they were outscored 20-2 and committed 10 errors.
“It stings going out like that because that’s not us. It hadn’t been us, but it happens. It’s baseball. It’s a weird game,” Cooper said. “We could just never put it together consistent enough to make it happen. But, again, hats off to (Robinson). Golly they’re good.”
And the Rockets (28-2), who are on a 21-game winning streak, simply played better than the Eagles this time around, as the one-year anniversary of Robinson’s 7-1 loss to Salado in the state semifinals draws near.
“We’re just happy that we got it done, and it made it even sweeter that it was against someone that knocked us out,” said Mason Cooper, who had four hits in the series, including a two-run triple Friday, one night after his three-run double blew open Thursday’s contest.
After a 12-2 Game 1 run-rule win in six innings Thursday, Robinson was just as convincing in Game 2. Braxton Ashcraft, who lit up the stat sheet as a receiver during football season, pitched six innings, scattering three hits and striking out eight — two of those with a runner on second in the fifth with the score 2-0 and three in a row after allowing the first two base runners on in the top of the six, following his team’s five-run bottom of the fifth that put the game out of reach.
“Probably some of our worst baseball all year. But hats off to those guys. They are 28-2 for a reason. They have dudes who can (hit), solid pitching and they just do the little things right,” said the junior Wilk, who gave Salado five solid innings from the mound. “But the games shouldn’t have been that far apart. Like coach always tells us, whoever has the least amount of mistakes usually comes out on top. And, obviously, we had mistakes. But, it’s baseball. It happens. Everyone’s young and we’ll be back next year.”
Wilk, who also plays middle infield, is one of seven who started Friday’s game expected back next season for a Salado team that said goodbye to three seniors: Cullen McKinney, Parker Seaton and Jackson Arredondo. Among others figured to return are two-year varsity standout pitcher/outfielder/shortstop Drew Dobbins and center fielder Ryan Oakes.
Robinson, meanwhile, doesn’t have to think about next year for at least another week as their pursuit of a return to Austin continues against West Orange-Stark.
Mason Cooper’s triple to the left-field wall in the third scored Jace Walker and Jake Strain to put the Rockets ahead 2-0.
It stayed that way until the fifth, when Robinson tallied five on two hits — including a two-run double by Cale Mosley — three errors, a walk and a hit batter to make it 7-0.
Cooper singled to lead off the bottom of the sixth and his pinch runner Rhett Roznos scored on a wild pitch from Salado reliever Max Marin for the final margin.
Oakes, who reached base three times, McKinney and sophomore Rustin Hale had the singles for the Eagles, who left the lases laoded in the seventh.
“We lose two guys (to graduation) that were in the field tonight so we are going to come back reloaded next year,” Kreece Cooper said. “It’s definitely going to be fun with the experience coming back.”