Cougars Storm to District Tourney Title
Rector (19-7) used a four run seventh inning to take a 5-2 lead before going on to a 5-3 win over EPC (14-9) to win the 2A-3 district baseball tournament this past Friday in Marked Tree.
Bam Westbrook singled to lead off the game for Rector. Brian Hufty singled before Garrett Buck singled to load the bases for the Cougars. Lawson Ford lifted a sacrifice fly that scored Westbrook to give Rector a 1-0 lead. Kade Scott was hit by a pitch to reload the bases only to see Danny Hager strike out looking and Case Watson pop out for the third out. EPC went three up and three down in the bottom half as Kyler Gordon grounded out, Trevor Walker struck out and Clay Malone grounded out to keep the score 1-0 Cougars. Austin Clariday looked at strike three to start the top of the second for Rector. Sam Simmons singled before Westbrook flew out. Simmons was thrown out by Peyton Phillips trying to steal second for out three. The Warriors again went down in order in the bottom of the second as Phillips, Hayden Allen and Hayden Tucker all struck out keeping the score 1-0 Rector.
Hufty reached first on a dropped third strike to lead off the third inning for the Cougars and went to second as Buck singled. Ford flew out and Hufty was doubled off at second base. Scott singled before Hager struck out for the third out. Brandon Smith flew out in the bottom of the third for EPC as Austin Smith followed with a ground out. Karson Clay grounded out to end the inning as the score stayed 1-0 Rector. Watson struck out to start the top of the fourth for Rector as Clariday reached on an error and went to second when the throw got away from the first baseman. Simmons and Westbrook both grounded out leaving Clariday on base as the score stayed 1-0 Cougars. Gordon struck out looking leading off the bottom of the fourth as Walker reached first on a dropped third strike. Malone's fielder's choice forced Walker out at second and Phillips went down looking at strike three to leave Malone stranded on first.
Hufty flew out in the top of the fifth for Rector as Buck followed with a single. Ford flew out and Scott lined out to leave Buck on base as the scored stayed the same. Allen and Tucker drew back to back walks for EPC in the bottom of the fifth. Brandon Smith grounded into a double play with Allen moving to third base. Austin Smith singled to score Allen making the score 2-1. Austin Smith scored when Clay reached second on a Rector error giving the Warriors a 2-1 lead. Gordon walked before Hunter McNeely came in to pitch for the Cougars. Walker struck out to end the inning with EPC up 2-1. Rector went down in order in the top of the sixth as Hager grounded out, Watson struck out and Clariday lined out. Malone reached on an error leading off the bottom half of the inning for EPC before being forced at second base on a fielder's choice grounder from Phillips. Allen grounded into a double play to end the inning with the score 2-1 Warriors.
Simmons grounded out to start the top of the seventh for Rector before Westbrook reached on an error. Hufty singled and when the outfielders missed the ball both runners advanced an extra base putting runners on second and third. Buck singled to plate Westbrook and Hufty to make the score 3-2 Rector. Ford tripled to bring in Buck making the score 4-2 Cougars. Scott struck out before Hager singled to score Ford making it 5-2 Rector. Watson singled before Clariday lined out for the third out. Westbrook came on to pitch for Rector as Tucker reached on an error sending him to second followed by Brandon Smith reaching on an error that sent him to second scoring Tucker to make it 5-3 Rector. Austin Smith struck out swinging as Clay struck out looking. Gordon drew a two-out walk before Walker struck out to end the game.
"It was awesome. We knew this team and had seen bits and pieces of their game all year, so it helped us. After our last conference game a big weight was lifted and we were playing loose and having fun. Winning proves to the guys how good they can be and how good they are," Cougar coach Robert Dorman said after the contest. "It showed how much heart these young men have. In the seventh I remember walking to third base and just getting teary-eyed at how proud I was of them. It was an awesome moment and one I will never forget."
McNeely got the win for Rector as he tossed one and a third inning in relief giving up no runs while not allowing a hit and striking out one. Westbrook got the same as he pitched one inning allowing one run or hits while striking out three. Hager started and pitched four and two thirds innings giving up two runs on one hit with three walks and seven strikeouts.
Buck led Rector with three hits, a run scored and an RBI as Ford had a hit, run scored and two RBIs. Westbrook had a hit and two runs scored, Hufty had two hits and run scored, Hager had a hit and RBI as Scott, Watson and Simmons each had a hit.
Allen took the loss for EPC as he pitched all seven innings giving up five runs on 11 hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
Austin Smith had a hit, run scored and RBI with Allen and Tucker each scoring a run.
Rector got to the finals by beating Marked Tree 12-4 in the opening round. McNeely got win going five innings while striking out five. Scott collected three hits with one run scored and two RBIS, Buck had two hits, three runs scored and one RBI, Ford had two hits, one run scored and four RBIs, Hager had one hit and two RBIs, Westbrook had one hit, two runs and two RBIs with Hufty adding a hit, two runs and one RBI. The Cougars downed top seeded Riverside in the semi-finals 9-7. Hager got the win in relief as he allowed no runs in three innings. Buck finished with three hits, a run scored and a RBI as Westbrook had two hits and two runs scored, Scott had two hits, a run scored and two RBIs, Hager had two hits a run scored and a RBI and Ford had a hit and run scored.
Rector will open 2A-North regional tournament play in Marked Tree on Thursday, May 5 at 3 p.m.
"It's not set in stone who we will play, but most likely it will be Tuckerman; the team that knocked us out of regionals last year. This is something we've wanted for a year; I can see the guy's mouths watering to play them," Dorman added. "Of course we are the first seed, but the boy's still feel like they have something to prove. We've had a bit of trouble with our fielding defense, but we'll have that worked out before regionals. We have a good shot."
The Rector closed out the regular season on Monday, May 2, as they beat Bay 12-1.
Nick Mesa started on the mound in his first varsity start. He threw three innings, giving up one earned, walked two and struck out two. Bam Westbrook and Danny Hager each pitched a scoreless inning.
Sam Westbrook was 2 for 3 with a triple. Brian Hufty was 2 for 3 with a homerun. Garrett Buck was 2 for 3 with a double. Kade Scott was 2 for 3. Hager was 2 for 3 and Case Watson was 2 for 3.
Rector also beat Ridgefield Christian 14-4 in a contest played Tuesday, April 26.
Buck started on the mound. He threw four innings, gave up one hit, four runs, walked five and struck out six. Lawson Ford came in as relief and pitched two innings. He walked one batter and picked up the win. Offensively, Buck was 2 for 4. Hager was 2 for 4 with a triple. Austin Clairday was 3 for 3 with 2 RBI's.
They'll take on Tuckerman at 3 p.m. today, Thursday, May 5, in the first round of the regional at Marked Tree. With a win they'll meet the winner of the Midland-Riverside game at 2:30 Friday, with the third-fourth place seeding game set for noon Saturday, with the championship game to follow at 2:30.