By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
BUDA – Hays Rebels pitcher David Casas left a curve ball over the plate in the fifth inning Tuesday night against New Braunfels Canyon slugger Matt James. That pitch didn’t stay over the plate – or in the park – for very long.
James smashed the curve out of Rebel Field for a two-run homer, the big blow in a protracted two-inning rally that carried Canyon to a 6-2 win against Hays on a night when the Rebels could have all but clinched the District 26-4A championship.
Instead, the Rebels and Canyon now are tied on top of the league at 11-2, each with one game remaining. And that next game is a lot tougher for Hays than for Canyon. The Rebels will play at Cibolo Steele, which is in a playoff tussle of its own for third place in the district. Canyon will play Schertz Clemens, which dwells in the district basement.
If Hays and Canyon both win or lose Friday night, they will meet again Saturday at 6 p.m., probably in Lockhart to decide the district championship. The Rebels now are 16-10-1 overall, compared with 25-3 for Canyon.
“The biggest thing we have to do is understand that they are a very good baseball team,” Hays coach Doug Ragsdale said about Canyon. “They hit the ball very well. Tonight was not our night.”
For more than a month entering Tuesday’s game, every night was the Rebels’ night while they rolled to a nine-game winning streak. The highlight was a 3-2 win at Canyon on March 28.
“We’ve got a good bunch of kids,” Canyon coach Peter Garza said. “They’ve got a lot of pride. When someone beats them, they want to beat them back.”
Through the first three innings, that appeared unlikely. Casas sliced through the Canyon order the first time through, retiring the first eight hitters and nine of the first ten. Meanwhile, Hays forged a 2-0 lead with single runs in the first and second innings.
Brandon Lawrence led off the game for Hays with a walk against Canyon starter Matt Hickman and later scored on Casas’ sacrifice fly. In the third inning, Ryan Slaughter singled for Hays and later scored on a single by Nick DeSantiago.
When Casas went to the mound in the top of the fourth, he held a 2-0 lead and seemed in control of the game. But Canyon coaxed an infield hit and a walk from Casas to start the inning, eventually tricking three runs across the plate.
One inning later, James took Casas way out the park, expanding a 3-2 lead to 5-2. The blast seemed to stun the Rebels, who saw their early lead quickly turned into an even larger deficit.
“It was hit so hard, we kind of lost our confidence a bit,” Ragsdale said.
Clayton Rogers replaced Casas on the mound and gave up an unearned run, extending the Canyon lead to 6-2 in the middle of the fifth. But Rogers pitched two shutout innings after that, giving Ragsdale and the Rebels at least a silver lining. Rogers has only recently begun pitching after recovery from a shoulder operation.
“We don’t know yet what his recovery time is, but if he can give us three innings like that on a regular basis, we’ll be all right,” Ragsdale said.
It could be that Hays will need those three innings from Rogers in a Saturday playoff game, but Ragsdale gave no pitching plans for that event. First, the Rebels have to beat Steele Friday night for a chance to win the district.Email | Print