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By Dan Perrine
For The Record 

Cardinals and Bobcats still rolling in baseball playoffs


Last updated 5/6/2024 at 4:33pm

Landon Reeves was the winning pitcher, catcher CJ Riojas started the first Cardinal rally with a hit, and Owen Tucker pitched three scoreless innings for a save in Bridge City's win over Liberty in Game 1

Four Orange County high school baseball teams entered the post season. A week into the playoffs only two remain and both were first place finishers in their respective districts.

The Bridge City Cardinals the champions of District 19-4A swept their bi-district series with the Liberty Panthers. Despite rain showers Thursday and Friday the Cardinals got both of their games completed resulting in victories.

Bridge City took the first game 7-2 against Liberty on Thursday, May 2, at Lamar University. The Cardinals scored in each of the first four innings to open a six run lead in the game.

CJ Riojas got things started for Bridge City with two outs in the first grounding a single deep in the hole which the Liberty shortstop fielded but could not throw out Riojas at first base. Hutch Bearden walked to put two Cardinals on with two outs.

Austin Frederick blooped a double to right that scored courtesy runner Trey Goodwin. A wild pitch later brought Bearden home to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead after one inning.

Again after two were out in the second inning John Van Huis singled to left. Three consecutive walks to Hunter Ford, Riojas, and Bearden brought Van Huis home with the third Cardinal run.

Two more runs scored for Bridge City in the third with two outs. Jace Ramirez singled before Aidyn Mulhollan and Van Huis reached base on a walk and being hit by a pitch to load the bases. Ford grounded to short but a wild throw allowed Ramirez and Mulhollan to score making it 5-1 in favor of the Cardinals.

The last two Bridge City runs came in the fourth as Bearden and Frederick singled to start the inning. Ramirez grounded his second hit of the game to left to drive in both Bearden and Frederick who had both moved up a base on a ground out by Slade Landry.

The Cardinals got good pitching from Landon Reeves and Owen Tucker. Reeves had allowed only an unearned run in the third before the first four Panthers reached base off of him in the top of the fifth to score their second run and load the bases.

Tucker came on in relief and immediately got a fantastic defensive play from Ford at shortstop who made an amazing diving catch of a line drive which Hunter turned into a double play on the Panther runner who strayed too far from second base. A fielder's choice ended the biggest threat of the night for Liberty keeping the score 7-2 in favor of Bridge City. Tucker finished the game tossing three scoreless innings to earn a save and the win for Reeves.

"Landon set the tone for us early, he did a good job. His pitch count was down before he ran into some trouble there in the fifth, so I went to the sophomore Tucker. We were trying to get one inning out of Owen to see if he could get us three outs, he ended up giving us nine. Owen did a really good job for us. I'm proud of him," Cardinal Coach Chad Landry responded.

The next night on Friday at Barbers Hill, Cardinal pitcher Max Pachar picked up where Reeves and Tucker left off tossing a two hit shutout in a 5-0 Bridge City win. Pachar threw a seven inning complete game and struck out eight Panthers.

First baseman Slade Landry was the hitting star for the Cardinals. Landry went three for three with a homerun, two runs scored, and a run driven in.

Up next for the Bridge City Cardinals are the Bullard Panthers. A best of three games series will start Friday, May 10, at 7:00 PM in Jasper with Bridge City as the home team. The second game will be played Saturday at 5:00 PM in Lufkin with a third game if necessary to follow thirty minutes later.

The Little Cypress Mauriceville Bears and the Vidor Pirates were two other Orange County teams also in District 19-4A that made the post season, but were eliminated in the first round. The Bears were swept in two games by the Livingston Lions 10-3 and 7-3. The Pirates lost a one game playoff 4-1 to the Hardin-Jefferson Hawks.

The District 22-3A champion Orangefield Bobcats are still alive although it did take three games to move into the second round. The Bobcats eliminated the Woodville Eagles in their bi-district playoff.

Orangefield captured the first game of the series 9-2 on Friday, May 3, at Winnie. Bobcat ace Brycen Tait was stellar again to be the winning pitcher.

The Orangefield offense had multiple contributors. Kane Smith opened the first inning with solid a hit that set the tone for the Bobcats during the remainder of the game, and he had two stolen bases. Logan Cheek smashed two hits, and Cameron Dearing drove in three runs.

The scene for this playoff shifted to Bridge City on Saturday. Game 2 began like it would be a repeat of the opening game as Orangefield jumped to a 6-0 lead in the top of the second inning.

Woodville took advantage of eight base on balls issued by Bobcat pitchers and three hit batters to rally making the score 11-7 in the Eagles favor going into the top of the seventh inning. The Bobcats tallied three runs in their last at bat but came up a run short forcing a deciding third game shortly after the 11-10 loss.

Much as they did at the start of the previous game the Bobcats jumped out to a comfortable lead. Kane Smith singled to center to open the first inning and was the first of four Bobcats to score in the inning to put Orangefield up by four runs before Woodville had come to bat.

Smith led off the second with a single followed by Cameron Dearing's bunt single. The two Bobcats pulled off a double steal before Caleb Fregia laid down another beautiful bunt on which both Smith and Dearing scored making the score 6-0 for Orangefield.

Freshman Carson Gonzales pitched a rough inning during the game played earlier on Saturday walking three of the five Eagles he faced. In the later game Gonzales got the job done giving up only two hits, hitting one batter, and striking out six while shutting out Woodville for five innings to get the important win.

After leaving the bases loaded in the third Orangefield got two runs in the fourth thanks to a double to the fence in right center by Kyle Michael and a sacrifice fly by Matthew Johnson. Three runs in the fifth gave the Bobcats an 11-0 advantage which invoked the ten run mercy rule when Gonzales struck out the side in the bottom half of the inning.

Kane Smith, Carson Gonzales, and Caleb Fregia led the Orangefield Bobcats during their 11-0 rout of Woodville in Game 3 of their series

After winning the series in three games Orangefield Coach Tim Erickson commented, "It was good to see the Bobcats respond after the second game. We just fell apart for one inning in Game 2 and gave up seven runs and just couldn't find the strike zone and one bad thing led to another. The positive side of it is we haven't played a three game series since 2018, so it's either been a two game sweep or the series we've lost have been two games. These guys got a little taste of what it takes to compete through and win that game three when it matters. It was good to see the Bobcats respond for that third game."

The area round playoff between Orangefield and Tarkington will be played at Lamar University in Beaumont over three days if necessary. The first game will be Thursday at 7:00 PM, the second game is scheduled for Friday at 7:00 PM, and a third game would be Saturday at 1:00 PM if the series is tied after two games.


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