ANNA — Up against his pitch count limit, Gunter’s Mason Mazerolle was feeling strong at the end, reconstructed knee and all.
Mazerolle was at 109 pitches with two out in the seventh inning and had just walked his first two batters of the game. No matter what, he was facing his final batter of the night.
But the senior closed out his complete-game four-hitter with a called third strike, finalizing Gunter’s 4-1 win against Whitewright in Game 1 of a best-of-three Class 3A Region II bi-district series Thursday night at the Anna Sports Complex.
“I feel like I could pitch more,” Mazerolle said afterward. “When I get it going, I keep going.”
The series concludes back at Anna on Saturday, with Game 2 at noon and Game 3 to follow if needed.
Mazerolle got his curve and changeup working in tandem with his fastball, and retired the first 11 Whitewright batters in order before Payton Jones reached on a bloop single to short rightfield on a curve away for the first Whitewright base runner.
“Mason pitched good,” Gunter head coach Kerry Clement said. “(Whitewright is) a good hitting team and we knew that coming in. They’re everything that I thought they would be. The last month, he’s really thrown well.”
Mazerolle was cleared to play last month after four months of rehab from knee surgery. He tore his right anterior cruciate ligament last November during the first playoff game of Gunter’s run to the 3A Division II state football championship.
Whitewright got a combined three-hitter from pitchers Payton Jones and Austin Jones, but Gunter (26-6) scratched out runs on a wild pitch, a sacrifice fly, a suicide squeeze bunt and a throwing error respectively.
Gunter left nine men on base, including the bases loaded in the third inning.
“Those guys are very good, very solid,” Whitewright head coach Jorge Rubio said. “I thought we played toe-to-toe with them for the most part.”
Rightfielder Matt Hunter figured prominently in the first three Gunter runs, scoring on a wild pitch in the second inning, hitting a sac fly to right to score Bo Whitteker in the fifth, and then squeezing in Whitteker in the seventh after Whitteker’s leadoff triple to left.
Whitewright (8-19) never led, but kept the game close for six innings. They broke through against Mazerolle with an unearned run in the fifth inning as Braden Ritchie singled and advanced to third on an outfield error, and scored on freshman designated hitter Ryne Godbey’s base hit past a diving Logan Nelson, trimming Gunter’s lead to 2-1.
“They’ve had some big wins this year,” Clement said of Whitewright. “They played Farmersville close, they beat Van Alstyne twice, so we knew coming in that they’re not going to back down. They’re a good senior team with a couple of good freshmen.”
But in the top of the seventh, after Whitteker’s triple, a walk to Bryson Jolly and Hunter’s squeeze, a pickoff throw from catcher to third base went wide, allowing Jolly to score the fourth and final run.
“We had our set play going,” Rubio said. “We knew they are aggressive on the base paths, so we were going to try to take advantage of that. It kind of got away from us.”
Payton Jones went 4 2/3 innings for Whitewright, allowing two runs on one hit and striking out four, but walking nine.
“That’s the Payton that we’ve been wanting to come out and pitch for us all year,” Rubio said. “I thought he threw really well. We didn’t get a lot of calls and I thought it was really tight at the plate, but I thought he threw really well.”
Senior Trey Carr will go in Game 2 for Gunter, with Whitteker, Hunter and a few others ready to go either in relief or in a Game 3 start should it come down to that.
Rubio said he will counter with either senior Burke Hosier or Ritchie in Game 2, with the other of the two starting the rubber game should it be necessary.
“It’s still up in the air,” Rubio said. “We’re going to figure out what we’re going to do to try to extend this thing to a third game.”
Class 3A Region II
Gunter 4, Whitewright 1
Gunter 010 010 2 — 4 3 2
Whitewright 000 010 0 — 1 4 1
Note: Gunter leads series 1-0.
WP — Mason Mazerolle. LP — Payton Jones. 2B — Gunter: Logan Nelson. 3B — Gunter: Bo Whitteker. HR — None.
Records — Gunter 26-6; Whitewright 8-19.