Orangefield drops two to Blue Devils
Last updated 5/23/2023 at 9:19pm
Another successful baseball season came to an end for the Orangefield Bobcats on Saturday, May 20. The Bobcats lost their second game to the Central Heights Blue Devils and were eliminated from the Class 3A state baseball playoffs.
Orangefield won the district championship going undefeated in fourteen games. The Bobcats advanced to the third round of the post season with impressive series sweeps over Pollok Central and Wallis Brazos in the bi-district and area rounds of the playoffs.
Game one of the series between Orangefield and Central Heights was played Thursday, May 18, in Jasper. The two teams came into the series with almost identical records the Bobcats sporting a 27-4 record while the Blue Devils were just as impressive at 28-4 for their season.
Orangefield scored three runs in their first at bat taking advantage of two Blue Devil errors. Kane Smith started the rally when his fly to left field was misplayed allowing him to reach second base.
Walks to Kyle Michael and Rustin Traxler loaded the bases with Bobcats with two outs. A wild pitch scored Smith with the first run, and an error on a ground ball hit by Jason Bodin scored Michael and courtesy runner Cameron Dearing for a 3-0 Orangefield lead.
Things were looking pretty good until the Blue Devils came to bat in the bottom of the first. The first five hitters all reached base against Bobcat pitching ace Bodin with Ashton Wagner and Luke Taylor both driving in two runs to put Central Heights on top 4-3 after one inning.
Bodin walked the leadoff batter Brady Owen to start the bottom of the second and was moved to left field. His replacement on the mound was Brycen Tait.
Owen scored on a two out hit by Mitchell Ashley to give the Blue Devils a two-run lead. Another run scored in the third to make the score 6-3 in favor of Central Heights.
In the top of the fourth the Bobcats responded as Caleb Fregia hit a leadoff triple to centerfield followed by walks to Matthew Johnson and Adam Tran to load the bases. Smith hit a sacrifice fly to left to cut the Blue Devil lead to two runs.
Logan Cheek singled to reload the bases for Orangefield. A wild pitch brought Johnson home with the second run of the inning and Michael had a rbi ground out that scored Tran to tie the game 6-6 through three and half innings.
The Blue Devils quickly retook the lead in the bottom of the fourth with three runs. Four more runs came across for them in the fifth to bring the eventual final score to 13-6 as Central Heights went up one to nothing in the series.
After a day off the second game of the series was played on Saturday, May 20, in Jasper. Orangefield was the designated home team for that game.
In contrast to the first game when nineteen runs were scored between the two teams the second game was a pitchers' duel. The contest remained scoreless through the first five innings.
Morgan Sampson started for Orangefield and initially was very strong. Sampson only walked two while striking out four in the first three innings.
Bobcat Coach Tim Erickson was extremely proud of the effort by Sampson a senior. "That's a guy who wasn't even going to play baseball this year because of knee surgery. Morgan had not picked up a baseball since February of last year due to some elbow issues, started working his way back, and he just goes out competing his butt off today," Erickson praised.
The Blue Devils loaded the bases after two were out in the fourth on their first two hits and a walk. Sampson calmed the threat with his fifth strikeout to retire the side.
A leadoff walk to Jason Bodin in the bottom of the fifth gave the Bobcats a chance to break the tie. Caleb Fregia sacrificed Bodin to second but Jason was thrown out trying to steal third and a ground out ended the inning with no runs across the plate for Orangefield.
Central Heights changed the score in the sixth as Mitchell Ashley opened the frame with a single to left. A comebacker to Sampson by the next batter looked like it might be a double play, but Sampson threw low to second base for an error and both runners were safe.
A shallow fly ball dropped into right field for a single to load the bases for the Blue Devils. Luke Taylor singled to center driving in the first two runs of the game. A Bobcat error on a possible inning ending double play grounder resulted in a third run coming in for a 3-0 Central Heights lead.
Orangefield threatened in the bottom of the sixth when Kane Smith and Logan Cheek both walked. Blue Devil starter Jack Christensen struck out the always dangerous Kyle Michael and got Sampson to ground out to short to quiet the Bobcat faithful.
Bodin relieved Sampson in the sixth and gave up a run in the top of the seventh. Christensen for the Blue Devils was taken out after a leadoff single by Rusten Traxler in the bottom of the seventh having allowed only three hits and three walks with three strikeouts. Nick West the new pitcher retired the three Bobcat batters he faced in the seventh to secure the series clinching 4-0 victory for Central Heights.
Coach Erickson reflected on the tough series with a very good Central Heights team. Erickson replied, "We knew it was going to be tough. This is a matchup that everybody was looking forward to, but I hate that it happened in round three I think it should have been played maybe two rounds later. We ran into a really good team, and the Blue Devils played out of their minds in the first game, but we showed up and competed today just didn't get the breaks in this one as things didn't fall our way in the second game."
The Orangefield Bobcats under Erickson have a winning program that the coach believes will continue. "We're disappointed with the third round loss, and I think that's a good thing for the program moving forward. We expect to be here, we're excited to be here. The expectations get a little bit bigger each year and that's a good thing," Erickson concluded.