CHINA SPRING The last time Gatesville faced China Spring, the Cougars jumped out to an early 3-0 lead behind lefty Sterling Wynn only to lose by one run.
On Friday, the two went at it again in a must-win situation for both. Again, Wynn was in control, just as he was the first time around.
This time, though, the Cougars held on, 6-4, breaking the third-place tie it had with Gatesville, even when it looked like the Hornets had one more rally in them. The win also sends China Spring (6-4 19-3A) to the playoffs as the district's third seed to meet Fairfield in the bi-district round. Gatesville, which entered the year as a playoff regular, had a six-year streak end.
In other years, we may have happened to get some breaks and win that one game a couple of those years, Gatesville head coach Graig Keeton said. This year we didn't.
Gatesville (17-12, 5-5) didn't make it easy on the Cougars, though a Cougars' three-run first inning off Hornet starter Tyler Jaynes had Gatesville playing catch up the entire game.
Down 5-0 at one point, the Hornets slowly started chipping away, finally getting to Wynn after the junior was in total control early on. He actually took a no-hitter into the fourth inning and settled back in after Gatesville got on the board in the frame.
Wynn worked into the sixth, but finally ran into trouble he couldn't get out of. After a leadoff Payton George single Gatesville's second hit a mishandled double-play ball turned into runners at first and second base with no outs instead of the bases clear and two outs.
Wynn struck out Slayton Meyer, but Cort Dixon followed with a single to left field that scored George and sent Allan Watson to third base. Cody Cryer worked a walk to load the bases and Cullen Mayhew did the same to force home Watson and end Wynn's day on the mound. The Hornets added another run in the inning to pull within 5-4.
They let their lefty last as long as he needed to, Keeton said. We knew if we could get to the No. 2, we thought we were going to win. That's really what we thought.
It nearly went that way. China Spring picked up an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning on a pair of singles sandwiched between a sacrifice bunt.
In the seventh, George reached on a one-out infield single and moved to second on a passed ball. But the Cougars escaped the trouble and ended the game with George standing on second base.
What I preach to them is finish, China Spring head coach Shane Keeton said. You can go 5-0 and not make the playoffs because of the second round (of district play). So that's the big thing I think we're finishing.