By Kevin Posival
Killeen Daily Herald
GATESVILLE - Cort Dixon settled under the fly ball and ended it.
Dixon caught the final out of Gatesville's 9-2 win over China Spring, ending not only his high school baseball career, but also the prep seasons of four of his closest friends.
"I didn't really know what to feel. I was filled with emotions. I was happy with what our team did - we were 18-8, that's the best record we (seniors) have had since we've been in the program," Dixon said. "It was over, I didn't know what to feel. It's a weird feeling."
Dixon homered in his final at-bat after the Hornets (18-8, 6-4 19-3A) jumped out to an 8-0 lead and Gatesville won its season finale, but for the first time since 2008, will not play in the postseason.
"It's bittersweet - it's always nice to beat China Spring, obviously," Dixon said. "But, I got the opportunities to make the plays I did. I get a good pitch, hit the home run. What more can you ask for besides a playoff berth?"
Gatesville (18-8, 6-4 19-3A) opened the bottom of the first inning with four straights and scored in every inning until the fifth for its 8-0 lead.
China Spring (18-8, 7-3), the district's No. 2 playoff seed, scored its two runs in the top of the sixth inning on a hit, an error, a hit-by-pitch and a walk. Dixon hit his home run - a two-out shot over the left field wall - in the bottom of the sixth inning to give the game its final score.
"It's been roller coaster year, we won a lot of games ... just didn't win the games that we needed to win to get in (the playoffs), so we felt snake bit and we felt cheated," Gatesville coach Graig Keeton said.
"We talked a lot this week about goals and purposes. ... We weren't perfect. Some of us wish we could do re-do some stuff, I wish I could re-think some decisions I made, but I think with everything we did, there was a purpose."
Micah Thompson led off the Hornets' first inning with a double; Allan Watson and Cullen Mayhew followed with back-to-back singles - Mayhew's plated Thompson for a 1-0 lead. Tyler English followed with an RBI double. Dixon added another run with his RBI fielder's choice for the Hornets' 3-0 lead going into the second.
Gatesville pitcher Tyler Jaynes sat the Cougars down in order in the second and third innings as the Hornets' offense continued to roll.
Thompson's two-RBI double plated Jaynes and Payne Sullins for Gatesville's 5-0 lead in the second. Dixon and Jaynes scored a pair of unearned runs on Sullins' two-run double in the third for a 7-0 lead. Thompson scored on an error in the fourth.
Jaynes got into a jam in the sixth and allowed the Cougars to score their two runs on a hit, a hit-by-pitch, an error, a walk and a fielder's choice. But the junior got out of it in spectacular fashion by tagging out Caleb Davidson at home on a bases-loaded wild pitch for the inning's third out.
"That's the kind of team this was, a team that was capable of doing some good things - we did them the whole year, just minus a few games," Keeton said. "Tonight, they played loose, they played with confidence, they played like it was their last game."