By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
KYLE – The Hays Rebels took the baseball field Tuesday night for the first time this year as the outright District 26-4A leaders, looking down after a long climb from their difficult pre-district schedule.
Demanding tournaments in San Marcos, Austin and Converse Judson left the Rebels with only five wins in their first 14 games as of March 8. One month later, the Rebels are cruising with a good cause, a defense of last year’s district championship.
The district race turned in Hays’ favor during the last couple of weeks. Ten days after Hays took a 1-0 loss at New Braunfels on March 18, Hays pitcher David Casas beat New Braunfels Canyon, 3-2, tying the Rebels with Canyon in first place with one loss each. Last Friday, as Hays pounded Lockhart,
9-0, Cibolo Steele beat Canyon.
Thus, Hays held the district lead at the start of Tuesday’s games, and the Rebels don’t appear ready to give it up. The remaining schedule sends Canyon and New Braunfels to Hays, a decided advantage for the Rebels as they control the top of the standings.
The Rebels continued their march in an 11-2 win at Lehman Tuesday night, led by a parade of multi-hit performances and another strong start for senior right hander Paul Breyfogle. With six wins in a row, Hays is up to 8-1 in the district (13-9-1 overall), outscoring its opponents 57-11 during the streak.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who are grooved in right now swinging the bat,” Hays coach Doug Ragsdale said.
Maybe more guys than he realized. For example, Ragsdale knew before Tuesday’s game that first baseman Jon Gonzalez would have to sit out with strep throat. In batting practice, Ragsdale noticed that little-used Jonathan Miles was hitting the ball squarely. So, Ragsdale wrote in Miles at first base for only his second start this season, batting cleanup.
Miles responded with a three-for-three night, including a two-run single in the first inning, a run-scoring double in the fourth and another double in the seventh.
“I just wanted to put the ball in play,” Miles said.
The Rebels were quite good at that throughout their lineup Tuesday night. Brandon Lawrence, Nick DeSantiago, Rene Ramirez and Ryan Slaughter all chipped in with two hits as Hays scored in every inning but the second.
A three-run first keyed by Miles’ two-run single gave Ragsdale and the Rebels a comfortable cushion as Breyfogle labored through the first four innings. Breyfogle went so far as to hit two Lehman batters in the first inning and kept finding himself in trouble.
As is usually the case, though, the appearance of trouble for Breyfogle far outweighed the reality. At the end of the night, Breyfogle turned in another solid line, allowing three hits and striking out five in six innings.
As the No. 2 Hays starter for the last two years, Breyfogle is 13-3, including 5-2 this year. But one of those losses might have been his best outing of this season – a 10-strikeout, two-hit performance in the 1-0 loss at New Braunfels.
That loss especially irritated Ragsdale because he believed Hays hitters got themselves out by swinging for the fences. Since then, the Rebels have cut down their swings to run-rule two opponents and score 11 or more runs four times in six games.
Meanwhile, the Hays pitching has more than held up its end during the district season. The Friday pitcher, David Casas, has tossed three shutouts in his four district starts. Breyfogle has allowed two runs or fewer in three of his last four starts.
Breyfogle turned more effective in his later innings Tuesday, looking especially free and easy in the sixth. The pitcher explained that he knew he was coming out after that inning, so he just relaxed. As a result, his fastball was much more effective.
“That’s an approach I need to take at the start of a game,” Breyfogle said, “especially against (New Braunfels) Canyon.”
Breyfogle will pitch for Hays when Canyon visits on April 22. Before then, Casas will take the slab Friday night when New Braunfels visits Rebel Field.
Lehman fell to 3-6 in the district and 7-15 overall. The Lobos began the district schedule with three straight losses, then bounced back onto the fringe of the playoff picture with three straight wins. But the Tuesday loss to Hays put Lehman on another three-game losing streak with five games left in the regular season.
“The kids are young,” Lehman Coach Brock Rumfield said. “We just have to keep working hard. You can see potential. The kids need to believe in themselves and stay positive. They need to realize that the game is about failure and you have to play through it.”
Right now, Hays isn’t running into a lot of failure. And the Rebels are more than happy to play through that.Email | Print