By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
BUDA – The big game has been coming for weeks, and everybody concerned has known about it. Hays and New Braunfels Canyon are on the docket for next Tuesday night at Rebel Field. At stake is nothing less than the District 26-4A baseball championship.
A game of such importance naturally raises questions, especially with regard to pitching.
Case in point: The Hays Tuesday pitcher, Paul Breyfogle, has been very good on some nights and excellent on the others. But the Friday pitcher, David Casas, has been dominant, routinely throwing two-hit shutouts with ten strikeouts.
So, the question was put to Hays baseball coach Doug Ragadale more than a week ago: Do you jigger the starting rotation to set up Casas as the pitcher against Canyon, just for that tiny edge in a game that figures to require every bullet? And Ragsdale was adamant with his answer.
“Paul Breyfogle is a senior who is 13-3 in the last two years,” Ragsdale said. “He’s a very effective pitcher for us who has done everything we’ve asked. Taking that game from him to give it to someone else just wouldn’t be the right thing to do. I wouldn’t do that to him. He deserves that game and he’ll do the job. It’s his game.”
But baseball isn’t known for being cooperative with such predictions, even when they’re made by baseball coaches with decision-making authority. One never knows when a 13-inning game is going to pop up and throw all the plans out of whack. Thus, the pitcher Tuesday night against Canyon is going to be Casas, after all.
The Rebels found a monkey wrench in Del Valle Tuesday night, when they needed 13 innings for a 5-4 victory. Breyfogle took the start, going 6 2/3 innings and allowing one earned run. Casas went the rest of the way, 6 1/3 shutout innings of three-hit pitching with ten strikeouts.
Following that game, Ragsdale not only had a decision to make, but the decision was made for him. He couldn’t return Casas to the mound for his usual turn against Schertz Clemens Friday night at Rebel Field, because the ace threw 85 pitches a week earlier against New Braunfels, then came back to throw 80 pitches Tuesday against Del Valle Tuesday night. It makes no sense to kill the kid’s arm by throwing him out there against Clemens with the playoffs coming right up.
Pitching Breyfogle against Clemens wasn’t an ideal situation, either, after he threw 85 pitches against Del Valle. But it was the lesser of two evils, so Breyfogle took the start.
“I asked him to set the tone for us, and he did,” said Ragsdale about Breyfogle after the Rebels’ 9-0 win against Clemens. “He put up three zeroes and we six runs for him. For him to go out there and do that after throwing 85 pitches Tuesday night was just a tremendous job.”
Behind Breyfogle’s start and the early offense, the Rebels also gained an opportunity to give some other pitchers desperately needed work. Ryan Driskill, Jeff Copeland and Clayton Rogers finished out the night from the mound, allowing no runs. Between them, the Hays pitchers allowed only one hit.
Ryan Slaughter led the Hays batting attack with a three-for-three night, while Colton Boothe went two-for-two with a walk. Rogers and Brandon Lawrence chipped in with to hits each.
“It was a focused performance,” Ragsdale said. “We took care of business.”
The Rebels (11-1 District 26-4A, 16-9-1 overall) now have won nine in a row and 11 of their last 12 games. Canyon entered Friday’s game against Del Valle 9-2 in the district. A Hays win Tuesday night against Canyon would clinch the district championship for the Rebels, who would then receive a first-round bye in the University Interscholastic League baseball playoffs.