Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

Bobcats Tame Tigers, advance to Regional Finals

Orangefield is boldly going where the Bobcats have not gone in baseball for more than three decades. The Orangefield Bobcats tamed the Rockdale Tigers last week to advance to the fifth round of the UIL state baseball playoffs for the first time since 1990.

The best of three games Regional Semifinal series was played on Wednesday and Thursday, May 22-23, at Cypress Woods High School northwest of Houston. Orangefield advanced to the Regional Finals by sweeping two games from Rockdale.

On Wednesday night the Bobcats jumped out to a four run lead after two innings and then somewhat coasted after that. Orangefield won 4-1 over the Tigers.

Bobcat starter Brycen Tait was solid again with no walks and six strike outs. The Tigers managed eight hits which Tait was able to spread out over five of the seven innings during the game.

Coach Tim Erickson of Orangefield commented about Tait's winning formula on the mound. "He's always around the zone. Like I have said before the Bobcats are going to play defense behind him, so that gives Brycen a lot of confidence up there. I think he did a great job in a big ball park with the wind blowing in. He knew that just filling up the strike zone, not trying to do too much would be the key."

In the bottom of the first inning Kane Smith of the Bobcats led off with a single. Cameron Dearing reached on a fielder's choice and Logan Cheek singled Cameron to third.

Cheek stole second before Caleb Fregia grounded out to second scoring Dearing with the first run of the game. Kyle Michael singled to bring home Cheek to give Orangefield a 2-0 lead.

The bottom third of the Bobcat batting order began the bottom of the second. Matthew Johnson singled to left field and Carson Worthy got on base via an errant throw by the Tiger pitcher Mario Casarez on a comebacker to the mound. Mason Houghton ran for Worthy.

Adam Tran executed a sacrifice bunt with two strikes on him to move Johnson and Houghton to third and second. Smith hit a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Johnson with the Bobcats' third run.

Casarez is the Rockdale shortstop when he is not pitching, and his backup made a mental error when Dearing grounded to short with two outs by throwing home instead of first base for an inning ending force out. Houghton made a good slide to the plate, and the Tiger catcher could not hold the ball to make the tag allowing Mason to score giving Orangefield a 4-0 advantage.

The Tigers tried to claw back in the top of the fourth inning collecting four hits and tallying their only run. The rally may have been more had it not been for an excellent throw by Bobcat catcher Carson Worthy to erase a Rockdale base runner trying to steal second.

The Bobcats threatened in their half of the fourth when Tran walked and Dearing was hit by a pitch after which a wild pitch moved both into scoring position. Cheek almost got two rbis when he smashed a line drive but unfortunately almost right at the Tiger second baseman for the third out of the inning.

Tait had an air tight defense behind him throughout the night. Cheek made four putouts in right field requiring long runs to make the catches, and Fregia turned a nifty double play on a ground ball he fielded near second where he touched the bag then relayed to first base to Camden Fountain to close the sixth inning for Rockdale.

"The main thing is we got it done. First two innings we had some good two out hits that tacked on some extra runs. We had some bad at bats in the middle of the game. It's good when we can come away with a win when we're not playing our best," Coach Erickson analyzed.

The second game played on Thursday afternoon started much like the first one did the night before with Orangefield jumping out to an early lead. The Bobcats brought their grade "A" bunting game to the ball park as seven times they reached base by bunting.

The first three Orangefield hitters in the top of the first Kane Smith, Cameron Dearing, and Logan Cheek got to first after laying down bunts. All three would eventually score as the Bobcats took a 3-0 lead before Rockdale had even batted.

The lead was increased to five runs in the third inning. Kyle Michael walked with two outs, Camden Fountain got on because of a Tiger error, and Matthew Johnson brought them both home with a triple to center that made the score 5-0 in favor of Orangefield.

Bobcat starting pitcher Kaleb Menard retired the first seven Tigers he faced before surrendering back to back singles with one out in the bottom of the third. A third straight hit was avoided when Dearing in left field just missed catching a low liner but retrieved the ball quickly and threw to Johnson at third base for a force out on the lead Rockdale runner.

Layton Mogford doubled to right center bringing home two runs for the Tigers to cut the Orangefield lead to 5-2. Mogford rounded second base too far and was thrown out diving back to the bag to end the inning.

The Bobcats answered with a run in the top of the fourth as Adam Tran reached base on a bunt. Two ground outs got Tran to third where he scored easily on Cheeks' double to the opposite field just inside the left field line.

Menard experienced some control issues in the bottom half of that inning walking two Tigers after two were out. He did throw a beautiful curve on a three two pitch that got a big swing and a miss to end the threat to keep the score 6-2 in the Bobcats favor after four innings.

Mogford started the sixth for Rockdale with his second hit of the game, and Mario Casarez walked resulting in Menard exiting from the mound. Garrett Rawls came on in relief.

Rawls went to three, two on Mason Willard before getting him to fly to Smith in center for the first out of the inning. The tall right hander then struck out the next Tiger batter and got a routine grounder to Tran at second to remedy the situation and preserve Orangefield's four run margin.

Cheek led off the top of the seventh for the Bobcats with his third hit of the game. Caleb Fregia bunted safely, and Michael hit a fly ball to left that the Tiger outfielder lost in the sun resulting in a two run double that scored Cheek and Fregia.

Kamden Hare ran for Michael. Hare scored to make it 9-2 when Camden Fountain bunted to third base and the throw to first which was being covered by the Rockdale second baseman who collided with Fountain running to first resulted in an error.

The Tigers threatened by loading the bases with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Rawls induced a ground ball to short which Fregia fielded, then tossed to Tran at second, who relayed to Fountain at first for a game ending, series ending double play.

"Kaleb Menard was a little frustrated with the tighter strike zone in this second game. Kaleb did fine with it and gave us five strong innings. Garrett Rawls came in with two on nobody out and got us out of a jam with no runs that was huge," Erickson indicated. Rockdale came into the series averaging about seven runs a game while the Bobcat pitchers limited the Tigers to just three total runs in the series.

Making it to the fifth round of the post season for the first time under Coach Erickson was a pre-season goal for the Orangefield Bobcats. Erickson elaborated, "It's been kind of a hurdle we've been trying to get over, and these guys set a goal early on to win the region. They've set themselves up to try to do that next week, so I couldn't be more proud of them."

The opponent for Orangefield in the Regional Finals will be the Franklin Lions who swept the Huntington Red Devils. Orangefield and Franklin will play a best of three game series with all the games at the Lufkin High School baseball field. Game 1 will be Thursday at 7:00 PM, Game 2 on Friday at 7:00 PM, and a third game if necessary would be Saturday at 4:00 PM. With a win in the Regional Finals the Bobcats would earn a trip to the final four in Austin which they last did in 1990.


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