Jacob Arizpe’s hard line drive down the left field line with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning drove in Jake McLendon and Calloway Shands to lift the Aledo Bearcats to a 9-8 victory over Denton High School Friday afternoon in the opening game of a best-of-3 bi-district playoff series at Saginaw High School.
Game two will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Saginaw High School. If a third game is necessary it will follow Game 2.
With the Bearcats trailing 8-7, McLendon led off the bottom of the seventh inning with an infield single. But after a sacrifice bunt followed by a ground out, Aledo had a runner at third base with two outs. The next batter, Shands, drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch as the ‘Cats had runners at the corners with two outs.
Arizpe was the next batter, and before he stepped into the batter’s box he was summoned by head coach Chad Barry.
“I just told him to not try to do too much,” Barry said. “I told him to look for his pitch and try to work the count if he got the opportunity. I told him to relax and square up.”
With a two-strike count, Arizpe apparently got his pitch, lining a hard shot past the Denton third baseman and into left field as McLendon and Shands scored to touch off a dog-pile celebration as the team mobbed Arizpe.
“The guys showed a lot of heart and character,” Barry said. “It is so big to win the first game of a (best-of-3) series. The guys never got down, they stayed up and came through.”
Aledo scored four runs in the first inning to take a 4-0 lead. Arizpe (double), Nathen Fingar (single) and Gehrig Mosiello (walk with bases loaded) each drove in a run, and Caden Jarvis scored on a wild pitch.
But Denton cut the lead in half with a pair of runs in the fourth before scoring six runs in the fifth – courtesy of five hits, a squeeze bunt and an AHS error – to take an 8-4 lead. Aledo used three pitchers in the fifth including starting pitcher Steven Swift and relievers Trevor Stone and Briley Rodriguez, the latter who finished on the hill and earned the win in relief.
The Bearcats got three of the runs back in the bottom of the fifth to cut the lead to 8-7. But it took a big pinch hit to keep the inning alive.
With the bases loaded and one out, Barry called on Truett Knox to pinch hit. Knox got down in the count 1-2 before stroking a double to right field that plated Jarvis and Vaughn Shields. Garrison Berkley followed with a double to plate McLendon as the Bearcats trailed by a run.
“What a huge hit by Truett coming off the bench,” Barry said. “I told him before the game if got into a situation where we needed a big hit that I was going to call on him. He was hitting the ball well in practice all week, and he came through when we needed him.”
Rodriguez allowed a walk and a hit in the sixth, but he ended the frame with a strikeout to keep the contest a one-run affair. Rodriguez, with his confidence high, retired the Denton side in order in the top of the seventh.
That set up the Bearcats’ dramatic walk-off win in the bottom of the seventh inning.