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Late Rally Lifts Kingwood to 3-2 Nail Biter over Atascocita

By Jason Hebert, 03/26/22, 8:45AM CDT

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Kingwood Mustangs 3, Atascocita Eagles 2 - March 25 @ Andy Wells Field

The Mustangs completed their two game set against the Eagles Friday night at at Andy Wells Field in what was similar to a playoff atmosphere.  After losing a tough one 6-5 in 9 innings Wednesday night, Kingwood was hoping to bounce back and split the series and keep pace in the District race.

Ace Ryan McClish started for the Mustangs, taking the mound having never lost to Atascocita in his career.  A leadoff walk to speedster Kendall George was immediately wiped out when Liam O'Leary threw him out at second on an attempted steal.  A groundout and fly out allowed for a three up, three down start for McClish at that point.  Unfortunately, Kingwood also went down in three hitters in their half as Eagles ace Parker Matthews collected two strikeouts and a groundout to move the game to the second scoreless.

McClish continued to deal as he induced a flyout to Paxton Singleton in right, a pop foul to Braden Fuentes at first and a fly out to Jack Bruckbauer in left.  Matthews once again followed with a clean inning of his own with a foul pop to second, another strikeout and another groundout to short in which the first baseman was forced to tag the runner.  The score remained at 0 through two innings.

After a pair of flyouts and a strikeout, McClish had faced the minimum nine batters through three.  However, Matthews matched that as well with a three strikeout inning, giving him six on the night.

The fourth inning saw things change a bit though.  George led off with an infield single and moved to second on a throwing error.  Matthews walked and a Chase Sowell fielders choice bunt down the third base line loaded the bases.  Bennie Qualls singled to left to plate the first two runs of the night and give Atascocita a 2-0 lead.  Both runners moved up on an error on the play to put two more runners in scoring position.  A walk gave the Eagles bases loaded again and left the Mustangs at a pivotal point in the game.  With no outs, McClish was able to strikeout the next two hitters and get the final out on a deep fly ball to Ty Boatright in center to end the threat and keep it a two run game.  Bruckbauer walked to lead off the Kingwood fourth and moved to second on a Matthews wild pitch.  He reached third on a Singleton ground out to the right side but was stranded there, leaving the score at 2-0.

As was the case in the fourth, McClish was forced to do his best work with bases loaded and the game on the line again.  After the leadoff hitter reached on an error, a walk, sac bunt and intentional walk on a 3-0 count once again had fans on both sides loud, cheering on their respective team.  Luckily for the home side, McClish struck out the next two to leave all runners on base and keep the score at 2-0.  With one out in the fifth, John Hebert lined a singled through the middle to break up Matthews' hopes at a no-hitter.  Jason Arney pinch ran and stole second base to give the Mustangs their first runner in scoring position.  O'Leary walked and was run for by Riley Chandler, giving Kingwood two on with one out.   Matt DeLeon pinch hit and walked to load the bases with two outs but a questionable strike three call prevented the Mustangs from scoring, moving the game to the sixth still at 2-0.

Nearing his pitch count limit, McClish finished his night strong, striking out the side in order in the top of the sixth.  The Mustangs came to the plate knowing they only had two more chances to prevent the two game sweep by the Eagles.  Braelon Richardson led off the inning with a walk, quickly giving Kingwood life.  After stealing second, he moved to third on a Singleton groundout to the right side.  Josh Arquette's line drive single to center knocked in Richardson, ended Matthews' shutout and brought the Mustangs to within one at 2-1.  Arquette moved up ninety feet on an errant pickoff throw to first, putting the tying run in scoring position.  With two outs in the inning, Atascocita brought in a reliever to try and close the game out.  Instead, his second pitch of the game hit Hebert and he then walked O'Leary to load the bases.  Chandler again entered as a courtesy runner for O'Leary.  Down to their last four outs, the Mustangs knew this might be their best opportunity to make things happen and that they did.  Boatright's sharp single to right, just out of the reach of the second baseman, plated Arquette and Hebert to give Kingwood its first lead of the night at 3-2, giving the home team fans reason to celebrate.  Looking to add to the lead, Sammy Soto pinch hit with runners on the corners and hit a rocket, but straight  to the second baseman to retire the side.

Going into the seventh, Coach Mead called on David Ward to protect the new lead.  He got a weak groundout from their 9-hole hitter to set up the biggest challenge, as they had the top of their lineup coming to the plate with only one out.  But Ward was able to strike out Arkansas commit George looking and ended the game in the same way, freezing Abilene Christian commit Matthews for a called third strike leading the team and fans to celebrate the comeback victory.

McClish finished with eight strikeouts and moved to 4-2 on the season and 2-0 in district.  Ward racked up two strikeouts in his only inning of work, gathering his first save of the season.

The Mustangs will next face district foe North Shore in a two game set, starting Tuesday night in Kingwood and Friday at North Shore.

Kingwood Varsity Mustangs
Overall record:  14-5
District record:     3-1