By Evan Mohl
Killeen Daily Herald
The Killeen Tribe did what no other team could do in the Texas Teen-Age Baseball Senior Midget State Championship – they shut down Belton.
And it took a major league nine innings to do it.
The Aggies came into Tuesday night's semifinal having scored 41 runs in three games, but the Tribe, on the arms of Daniel Cole and Nathan Santiago, stifled the Belton hitters in a thrilling 6-5 victory that took just a shade under three hours to complete.
The Tribe got the go-ahead run when Ethan Gilmore, pinch-running for Lorenzo Branch who walked, came around to score on a little dribbler by Cole. No team had scored since Belton forced the game into extra innings in the sixth with two runs, and Killeen hadn't scored since putting up three in the third to take a 5-2 lead.
"Oh man, what a game," Tribe coach Whitney Cole said. "I mean when you have parents and fans telling you their pacemakers have stopped or their out of nitrogen pills, it's a pretty nerve-wracking game."
With the win, the Tribe remained undefeated heading into tonight's championship game at 6 p.m. They will play the winner of the Belton-Pleasant Grove game at 9 p.m. Both games will be held at Lions Club Park. It's a double-elimination tournament, so Killeen will have two shots at the state title.
According to Killeen Parks and Recreation Director Brett Williams, this is the furthest a Killeen team has ever advanced in the senior midget category.
The epic battle between Belton and Killeen featured several dazzling plays both at the plate and on the field. There were three plays at home (all outs) and four outs made at third base.
"Honestly, it was a great game between two great teams," Cole said. "I think we were both really familiar with each other since had played each other before in select and traveling leagues."
Cody Wolf pitched seven strong shutout innings for Belton in the loss and also chipped in with two RBIs.
Trent Stafford, Brent Drummond and Justin Tatum had the others.
Wes Brooks had 2 RBIs for the Tribe while Santiago and Stephan Shaw each chipped in with one. Brett Pagel reached based five times for Killeen at the leadoff spot and had a spectacular play in the field when he robbed the Aggies of a base hit with a diving, backhanded catch. The rolling, tumbling was worthy of a Sportscenter Top 10 nomination.
"I tell you what, I'm so proud of the kids," Cole said. "This was a team that didn't even make the playoffs last year, and they worked hard to get hear. Now, we have a chance to go win the state championship."
Contact Evan Mohl at email@example.com or (254) 501-7564.