By Evan Ren
Killeen Daily Herald
LORENA It took a few twists and turns, but the Ellison baseball team owns a 1-0 lead in its bi-district series with Mansfield Timberview.
Coming away with a 15-5 win at Lorena High School on Wednesday, the Eagles overcame a 4-3 deficit with a 14-hit effort, led by Travis Tucker who was 3-for-3 with a triple, double and three RBIs.
The two teams will meet in Game 2 on Saturday at Lorena at 1 p.m., to be followed in short order by Game 3, if necessary.
"We've been swinging the bat well," said Ellison coach Richard Tucker, whose team improved to 17-9. "We've probably had the best workouts we've had all year over the last two weeks and it showed."
That wasn't the case in the early going, when the Wolves (7-17) opened the scoring in the top of the first with pitcher Matt Shelton walking, advancing on a wild pitch, and scoring on a double by Mike Choice.
It was the first of two leads which would be lost during the evening, beginning with a three-run Ellison second inning.
Struggling with the bottom of Ellison's batting order, Shelton allowed a double by Kyle King and an RBI triple by Trent Sinclair to tie the game at 1.
Travis Tucker followed with a double to score Sinclair, after which Shelton loaded the bases by walking Brandon Skinner and Paul McCoy. A ground ball by Drew Chapman was subsequently booted by Nate Shelton at first, allowing Tucker to give the Eagles a 3-1 advantage.
"The top of our lineup has been hitting the ball well all year," coach Tucker said. "But tonight the bottom of the order got on base, which set things up for the top of the order."
The Wolves fought back in the top of the third, taking advantage of a wild stretch by McCoy which saw him walk Matt Shelton and hit Choice with a pitch. Following a passed ball to advance the runners, Jacob House doubled to right-center to knot the game at 3.
Ellison's generosity continued in the fourth, when Timberview's Jeff Webster singled, advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Kris Guzman and scored on a throwing error by Chapman at first.
"We're young and we'll make those types of mistakes," coach Tucker said. "But we've got to make them when it doesn't count. It seems like all of our mistakes are bunched together."
Ellison soon found compensation at the plate, touching Shelton for three runs on four hits in its half of the fourth.
Travis Tucker, McCoy, Chapman and Matt Jackson all singled during the frame, with McCoy and Jackson picking up an RBI each. A throwing error by Pat Durland at shortstop during a would-be double-play accounted for the other run, allowing McCoy to score.
Trailing 6-4, it was Timberview's turn to be generous in the fifth, allowing Ellison to bring home three more runs on just one hit. Garrett Carter started things off for the Eagles, reaching first on a passed ball after striking out. Sinclair was then hit by a pitch and Travis Tucker was awarded first base on catcher's interference to load the bases.
Skinner walked to force home Carter, Sinclair scored on a wild pitch, after which Chapman delivered an RBI single to allow Tucker to plate the Eagles' ninth run.
"Shelton started getting tired when his pitch count got up on him," said Timberview coach Robert Owens, a former Ellison football assistant. "Then we started to press and we made some huge errors tonight which really hurt us."
Timberview countered with a run in the sixth when Chris Guzman walked and scored on a base hit by Matt Shelton to cut the gap to 9-5.
But with the entrance of relief pitcher Hector Ezequiel in the sixth, the Eagles blew the game open with a six-run inning. Carter, Tucker, Skinner, Chapman and Ethan Tijerina all had base hits to fuel the explosion, which ended the game on the mercy rule.
"I told the kids they have to believe they can win this thing on Saturday," Owens said. "If they don't believe it, we're not even getting on the bus."
Contact Evan Ren at firstname.lastname@example.org