Deer Park Deer 9, Kingwood Mustangs 7 - May 7, 2022 @ Andy Wells Field
Needing a win to force a game three, the Kingwood Mustangs took the field on a very hot Saturday afternoon against Deer Park Deer. Ryan McClish was on the mound for the Mustangs while the Deer countered with Caiden Wilson.
The top of the first started with a groundout to third and a strikeout before a hit-by-pitch gave the Deer their first baserunner. A walk and another hit-by-pitch loaded the bases before a single to right center gave Deer Park a quick 2-0 lead. After a very close pitch was not called strike three, the Deer got a three-run home run to left to extend the lead to 5-0 in the top of inning one. Knowing their season was on the line, the Mustangs seemed determined to not let one call or one inning deter them. Jack Bruckbauer and Braelon Richardson both walked to quickly give the Mustangs two runners. Josh Arquette hit a sac fly to right, moving Bruckbauer to third. After Richardson stole second, Paxton Singleton walked to load the bases. With Wilson still having a tough time finding the strike zone, McClish received the team's fourth free pass in five hitters to force in Bruckbauer with the Mustangs first run. Jason Arney entered as a courtesy runner at first and the Deer replaced Wilson with Hayden Tronson. Sammy Soto greeted him with a single down the right field line to score Richardson and Singleton, bringing Kingwood to within two at 5-3. Arney stole home while Soto distracted the Deer with an attempted steal of second. With the throw home, Soto was able to steal second on the play as well. He would be stranded there though as the Mustangs ended up the first, showing a lot of fight and now only trailing by a single run.
The leadoff hitter for Deer Park reached on another hit-by-pitch and moved to second and then third on passed balls. But he was stranded there as McClish got a grounder to Richardson to end the inning. The Kingwood second was a quiet one as the team went three up, three down to move the game to the third at 5-4.
The Deer managed two walks and a stolen base but couldn't not pad their lead as McClish registered two strikeouts and a pop up to Bruckbauer in short rightfiend to end the frame. Arquette walked to start the home half but was forced at second on a fielder's choice. McClish singled to left to put two runners on before Arney entered as a courtesy runner. Soto walked to load the bases with one out. John Hebert hit a sacrifice fly to deep center to score Singleton and move Arney to third, tying the game. For the second time in the game, Soto was able to distract the Deer long enough for Arney to steal home giving Kingwood their first lead of the day at 6-5.
Deer Park was retired in order in the fourth highlighted with a diving catch by Singleton in rightfield. The Mustangs also went down with only three hitters in their half, sending the game to the fifth with a 6-5 lead for Kingwood.
McClish recorded two more strikeouts to go with one walk but that runner was out at second on an attempted steal due to batter interference. Colt Safford entered the game to pitch for the Deer. Richardson reached on a wild pitch on strike three, however the Mustangs couldn't generate anything else in the inning.
Deer Park got a leadoff single to left, just out of the reach of a diving Arquette and a bunt single down the third base line to put pressure on the Mustangs in the top of the sixth. A sac bunt moved both runners up as Arquette threw to Bruckbauer covering first on the play. A single to center scored two runners and gave Deer Park the lead back at 7-6. Landon Morman entered the game to retire the last two hitters in the inning, stranding one on base. Soto reached base for the third time in the game with a single to right field. Soto was lifted for Caden Wellman to pinch run. Wellman raced to third on an errant pickoff throw by the catcher. Hebert then singled up the middle to score Wellman and again tie the score, this time at 7. Arney came in to pinch run for Hebert at first base and for the second time in as many games, Braden Fuentes entered as a pinch hitter. Fuentes hit a deep fly to left and a caught steal a bit later ended the inning and moved the game to the seventh tied at 7-7.
Ian Carlson was brought in to pitch for the Mustangs and got the leadoff hitter with a line out to right. A single to left center by the Deer cleanup hitter preceded a pinch hitter grounding out to first base. After a 3-0 count to the next hitter, he was intentionally walked to put runners on first and second. Another walk loaded the bases for Deer Park, down to their last out. A double down the left field line that was very close to being a foul ball scored two runs and gave the Deer a 9-7 lead. Down to their last at bat, possible of the season, Bruckbauer walked but was forced out at second on a fielder's choice groundout to short. With the tying run at the plate, a flyout to center field ended the game and the Kingwood season.
After being able to win the play-in game a week earlier, the Mustangs held their own against Deer Park, the district champions. With the majority of their starters back in 2023 and most of their pitching staff, look for the Mustangs to be in the postseason again very soon. All in all, while obviously everyone would prefer to be preparing for Strake Jesuit and round two, Kingwood enjoyed another successful season in 2022. We'll miss you Seniors. We hope to see you at a game or two next year.
Kingwood Varsity Mustangs
Overall record: 18-12
District record: 7-6 (including play-in game)
Playoff record: 0-2
Tag(s): KHS Varsity