LITTLE ELM — Luke Kirkbride was 3-for-4 and had a one-out walk-off RBI double as Denison edged Denton Braswell, 7-6, in a District 5-5A play-in game on Saturday afternoon at Denton Braswell.
Even though the game was played at Braswell, in setting up the play-in game the coaches agreed on Denison as the home team. And the move paid off for the Yellow Jackets (10-20, 6-7), who made the playoffs for the first time since 2011 and enter as the district’s fourth seed and will face Justin Northwest, the District 6-5A champ, at Northwest in a one-game playoff at 7 p.m. on Friday.
“I think it means a whole lot for this group,” Denison head coach Charles Bollinger said. “Obviously none of these guys have been in a playoff game. It’s big for our program. That’s how you start traditions.”
Dalton Souther was 2-for-3 with a triple, two RBI and two runs, Wilson Kirkbride scored twice and Nate Maulsby tripled and drove in two runs for Denison.
Jacob Monroe, who got the win in relief, reached on a one-out error in the seventh before Austin Emery was hit by a pitch. Luke Kirkbride then doubled to center for the winning run.
“That was big for the little freshmen right there,” Bollinger said. “Had a really good day all the way around.”
Braswell (12-19, 5-8) opened the top of the seventh with three batters reaching but Monroe worked out of his own jam. Brant Bennett was hit by a pitch to open the inning, then Nathan Love walked and Jordan Jones reached on a bunt single.
But Moreno then got a strikeout, an out on the bases and a flyout to keep the game tied.
“That was probably the most clutch thing right there,” Bollinger said. “We dodged a bullet.”
The Jackets loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the sixth but couldn’t push across the go-ahead run. Luke Kirkbride led off with a bunt single and stole second with two outs. Tre’ Lyday and Christian Ruebeck walked and after a pitching change Maulsby flew out to right.
Down to its final six outs, Braswell came up with the four runs it needed to tie the game in the top of the sixth — all with two outs. A double by Jones was sandwiched around a pair of flyouts, including a sliding catch in center by Lyday.
But Seth Thomas couldn’t close out the inning. Gage Goodman walked and then Jordan Joyce followed with a two-run triple to center. Brandon Lopez doubled to left to cut the deficit to a run and Chase Fields singled to center off Monroe to tie the game.
The Jackets doubled their run total for a 6-2 advantage in the bottom of the fourth. Braswell almost got out of the inning down by just a run but the two-out rally produced three runs.
“We had it pretty much under control,” Bollinger said.
Luke Kirkbride doubled to right field and then Wilson Kirkbride was hit by a pitch. Souther tripled to left field and then, after a pitching change, Lyday reached on an error at third as Souther scored.
After trailing for the first time, Denison quickly regained the lead in the bottom of the third. Wilson Kirkbride was hit by a pitch and Souther reached on a bunt single. Nate Maulsby came through with a two-out, two-run triple to center field as the Jackets held a 3-2 lead.
Braswell took a 2-1 advantage in the top of the third with a two out rally. Goodman opened the inning with a walk but then there were two quick outs. A single by Fields put runners on the corners and after Fields took second, Drake Ayala had a two-run single to center.
Wilson Kirkbride led off the bottom of the first with a double to left and then Souther was hit by a pitch.
Lyday followed with a single to score Wilson Kirkbride and give the Jackets a 1-0 lead.
Maulsby was hit by a hit to load the bases with one out but Cayden Earnhart grounded into the inning-ending double play.