By BILL PETERSON
Editor at Large
SAN ANTONIO – The Hays Rebels return to the Blossom Athletic Complex with their playoff lives on the line this afternoon after one bad inning ruined an entire game for them Thursday night.
The Rebels lost the first game in a best-of-three series, 7-2, as Kerrville Tivy scored six runs in the fourth inning to break open a game with to-and-fro earmarks up to that point. Now trailing, 1-0, in the series, Hays (19-13-1) needs two wins against Tivy today if it is to stay alive for the third round of Class 4A high school baseball playoffs.
“There’s no pressure,” Hays Coach Doug Ragsdale said. “The pressure was getting here. We’ll come back Saturday, and we’ll just play. I’m not putting pressure on them. They know what’s at stake.”
Ragsdale walked away from the field Thursday night with no idea if he would tab David Casas or Clayton Rogers as his starter for Game 2, which begins today at 2 p.m. If the Rebels can win that game, then a third and deciding game would begin 30 minutes later.
Casas has been the Hays ace through most of the season, routinely throwing complete game shutouts well into April. However, Casas hasn’t been the same since he pitched more than six innings of relief in a win at Del Valle on April 15. New Braunfels battered Casas in the fourth inning on April 22, then Casas lost all of a five-run lead in the fifth inning last Saturday against Dripping Springs.
The other option, Rogers, hadn’t pitched four innings all year before giving the Rebels a strong five-inning performance for a victory in last Saturday’s runner game against Dripping Springs.
The good news, for Hays, is that the pitching staff arrives today in fairly good shape because Paul Breyfogle, despite his struggles Thursday, at least went the distance. Ragsdale said he told Breyfogle before the game that he was counting on a complete game performance, and he certainly meant it.
The Rebels held a 2-1 lead going to the top of the fourth Thursday night, though Breyfogle certainly wasn’t on top of his game. The Hays senior had trouble throwing strikes, particularly with a slow, flat curve ball.
But Tivy hitters also won their share of breaks in the fourth inning with a couple blooping singles that fell in front of hard charging Hays center fielder Brandon Lawrence. Eventually, though, with the bases loaded, Tivy got its pitch, a tee-time slider with no life. Tivy’s Logan Vick creamed it for a grand slam that was still 100 feet high when it crossed the right field fence.
Vick’s slam gave Tivy a 6-2 lead. Ragsdale stayed with Breyfogle, the damage having been done. Tivy added another run in the inning for a 7-2 lead.
Breyfogle held Tivy down for the rest of the game, but Hays hitters couldn’t muster an attack against Kerrville right hander Kyle Prater, who certainly doesn’t pitch as one would expect of a linebacker who’s headed to Louisiana State on a football scholarship. Prater mystified Hays hitters with selections from his junk collection and claimed the victory.
“We didn’t hit the ball very well,” Ragsdale said. “They put a kid out there who was the kind of pitcher who has given us trouble all year long.”
By the accounts, Tivy pitchers Scott McConnell and Michael Price, who are next in line, pitch the same kind of game. In other words, Hays hitters probably can’t count on a steady diet of hard stuff.
And that means the Rebels will have to beat the kind of pitchers who have troubled them all year, if they’re going to last past today.