Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Sports

February 20, 2014

Jackets open season with pair of comeback wins in Waco

WACO — The fourth-ranked Cleburne Yellow Jackets opened the 2014 season with a pair of come-from-behind wins on Thursday in the Waco Tournament.

In their season opener, the Jackets scored six runs in the top of the seventh inning to beat China Spring, 6-4. In Cleburne’s second game on Thursday, the Jackets scored six runs in the final inning to record a 10-9 walk-off win over Harker Heights.

In the first game, Cleburne and China Spring battled through five-and-a-half scoreless inning. The Cougars then scored three runs off of two Jacket errors in the bottom of the sixth inning to take a 3-0 lead.

The errors and struggling offense were a result of overconfidence, Cleburne Coach Ross Taylor said.

“I don’t know that it’s rustiness — I think it’s cockiness,” Taylor said. “We came out here going, ‘Don’t you know who we are?’ We were just going along. We’d get a hit and not do anything with it. We were trying to pull pitches that were a ball outside. The game dictates what you can do. Sometimes when you’re young, you think you can dictate to the game what you want to do.

“It wasn’t a clean game. [We had a] dropped ball in right, dropped ball in center and a double play ball we don’t make a play on. It wasn’t a very clean game. But on the other side of the coin, that’s a team that’s always pretty good and one of the better 3A programs in the area. They threw a kid [Blake Bottoms] that’s already signed with Temple Junior College as a pitcher, and he did a good job. We finally got to him in the seventh inning.”

Cleburne entered the top of the seventh inning three outs away from a season-opening loss. But Jacob Martin, Logan Runyon and Daniel Richardson loaded the bases with three singles to open the frame.

Tristan Holliday then reached on a fielder’s choice and drove in Martin. Freshman Spencer Suitt followed that by driving in Nolan Reynolds, who was pinch running for Runyon, on a single.

Garrett Buckner gave the Jackets a 4-3 lead when he singled in a pair of runs. Stevan Martinez followed Buckner with a walk, and Fowler singled to score Buckner. On a fielding error, Martinez also scored on Fowler’s hit to put Cleburne on top, 6-3.

China Spring added a run in the bottom of the seventh, but Dylan Schneider was able to finish off the complete game to record his first victory of the season.

“That was a good job [of coming back],” Taylor said. “We had some guys that settled in and said, ‘It’s time,’ but I just wish they’d do that a few innings earlier. What we did in that last inning is what we’re capable of the whole game — sitting back and hitting balls up through the middle, hitting line drives, taking what the pitcher’s giving you and working with it. I was pleased with that part of it, that at least they didn’t fold the tent and say ‘We’re beat.’”

Schneider, who went 16-0 as a sophomore last season, recorded nine strikeouts, two walks and allowed five hits. All four of China Spring’s runs were unearned.

“I think Dylan was OK,” Taylor said. “I don’t think he was great. [His pitches were] up all day. He was showing his curve ball a little bit and got away with it some early. After they came through and saw it a couple of times, I think they picked up on it.”

Fowler was 2-for-4 at the plate with 2 RBIs. Martin, Richardson and Suitt each went 2-for-3.

Against Harker Heights, Cleburne scored two runs in the third inning to take a 2-0 lead. But the Jackets struggled mightily on defense in the fourth inning as the Knights scored eight runs. Cleburne also committed three errors in the fourth inning.

Cleburne added two runs in the fifth inning to pull to within 8-4, but the Knights added another run in the top of the sixth.

With a 2-hour time restriction limit on tournament games, the Jackets headed to the bottom of the sixth down four runs and their backs against the wall.

But for the second consecutive game, Cleburne played its best with its backs against the wall.

The Jackets plated six runs in the final half-inning to pull off a second straight come-from-behind late-inning victory.

Trailing 9-6, Martin came up to the plate with the bases loaded and ripped a shot to center field, scoring Martinez, Fowler and Schneider to tie the game on a bases-clearing triple.

After Runyon grounded out, Richardson hit a line drive down the third base line, which drove in Martin for the game-winning run.

“It was an ugly game,” Taylor said. “There weren’t very many aspects of that game that were good except for hitting for about two innings. It’s always good to be 2-0 rather than 0-2, but we made three or four physical errors and at least three or four mental errors today. The thing is, we’re not going to beat Burleson, Burleson Centennial, Joshua and Crowley with that kind of an effort. It’s got to get better, and it’s got to get better early.”

The Jackets had several late-inning rallies in the playoffs in 2013, but were unable to pull off late-inning rallies in their final two games of the season and were eliminated. Taylor said the 2-0 start and comeback wins were nice, but he added the Jackets can’t get in a habit of winning games with their backs against the wall in late innings.

“When we start the game off, it’s like a morgue in here,” Taylor said. “But when things get going late, it’s like ‘OK, lets turn the switch on,’ but if you keep doing that, sooner or later somebody is going to be good enough to keep you from flipping that switch. You have to play that way every inning.

“These games are hard to live with. You’re glad you’re winning. But it gives you a false sense of what you’re capable of doing.”

Richardson got the win on the mound after pitching a complete game with six strikeouts.

Martinez was 2-for-3 with three runs scored. Folwer was 3-for-3 with two RBIs, two runs scored and a walk. Martin was 1-for-3 with a triple, three RBIs and a walk.

Cleburne resumes tournament play in Waco at 12:30 p.m. against Waco High and 5:30 p.m. against Red Oak.

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