JUSTIN — It was the scenario Denison hoped for. They held a lead for the first three and a half innings of the winner-take-all contest. With nine outs left the game was tied. The underdog Yellow Jackets had Justin Northwest on the ropes.
In the blink of an eye, however, the top of the Texans order came through again and Northwest survived a massive scare from Denison in an 11-7 victory over the Yellow Jackets in a Class 5A Region I bi-district game at Justin Northwest on Friday night.
It was the first playoff appearance in six years for Denison (10-21) and the Jackets proved they belonged by pushing Justin Northwest (24-9) to the limit.
“We had them on the ropes. We really did,” Denison head coach Charles Bollinger said. “We gave them everything they wanted. Definitely a big experience for them and there’s no substitute for experience.”
The Texans came up with a big answer after Denison pulled even and put together the winning outburst in the bottom of the sixth. Christian Ruebeck was up against his pitch limit and Northwest had the top of the order coming up.
Tanner Tredaway had an infield single to short and scored on Jarod Riggio’s RBI double into the left-field corner to break the tie. Two wild pitches by Garrett Maxwell allowed Riggio to score and after back-to-back walks, Seth Thomas allowed a two-run single to Tayte Tredaway for the final scoring of the night.
“Their 1-2 guys were really good hitters,” Bollinger said. “They had some big hits. We’re short on pitching but when we fell behind in the count it hurt us.”
Down to their final six outs, the Jackets found a way to tie the game in the top of the sixth. Northwest turned to Hunter Brill to close out the last two innings after Luke Kirkbride walked. Brill struck out pinch-hitter Austin Emery but a wild pitch on the last throw of the at-bat put a runner in scoring position.
Wilson Kirkbride singled and went to third on the throw home so Denison had both runners in scoring position. Dalton Souther had an RBI single to left and then got picked off to draw attention away from the plate as Wilson Kirkbride scored when the throw from second after tagging out Souther was late.
“That was really big,” Bollinger said. “Totally changed things for us. I felt we had some momentum.”
Northwest tacked on a run in the bottom of the fifth for a 7-5 advantage on Noah Baker’s two-out single to left.
An out at the plate kept Denison from tying the game in the top of the fifth. Tre’ Lyday singled to left, moved up on a groundout and then went to third on a wild pitch. Nate Maulsby grounded to third and Baker tried to get Lyday at third — he failed and the Jackets had both runners in scoring position when Maulsby stole second. Thomas hit a one-hopper to short, with the infield half-way in, and Tanner Tredaway came home with the throw.
It bounce to the plate and took Tayte Tredaway into the baseline and a collision with Lyday for the second out. Thomas replaced Maulsby at second but Cayden Earnhart struck out and the Jackets came up empty.
The Texans took their first lead of the game with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. Jack Schoeppey stole second and then went to third on a passed ball with two outs. Tanner Tredaway chopped an infield single to second to drive in Schoeppey, Riggio walked and Cayle Ward went the other way and dunked a two-run single to right as Northwest held a 6-5 advantage.
Northwest started chipping away at the gap with a run in the bottom of the third. Tanner Treadway was hit by a pitch and then stole second before Riggio’s standup triple to left center. After Ward was hit by a pitch, J.P. Paytonijan grounded out to second to make it a 5-3 game. The next two Texans made outs to keep the runner stranded in scoring position.
Denison built a 5-1 lead in the third. The first three Jackets reached base and produced two runs. Wilson Kirkbride singled to left and Souther worked a full-count walk. Lyday then bunted down the third-base line and Doger Gilliland came off the mound to get it. His throw to first was wild on the inside of the bag, both runners scored and Lyday made it all the way to third. A two-out error at second base let Lyday score and it was a four-run advantage.
“We got it to 5-1, at that point they were feeling the pressure,” Bollinger said.
The Jackets had a runner reach third in the second inning but couldn’t push him across. Earnhart walked with one out and courtesy runner Kahlin Hall stole second and went to third on a groundout but was left there.
The Texans were in position to score in their half of the second but ran themselves out of a scoring chance. Tayte Tredaway and Gilliland walked but then courtesy runner Hunter Adkins was picked off second base. A strikeout and groundout ended the inning.
Northwest cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the first. Riggio singled past short with one out, Ward walked and then Paytonijan singled to right field to plate Riggio. Zach Sanders cut off the ball quickly enough and threw behind Paytonijan to nab him rounding first for the second out. That left Ward stranded at third with an inning-ending groundout.
Denison went right to work in putting pressure on the 6-5A champs with a pair of runs in the top of the first. Wilson Kirkbride was hit by a pitch and then stole second. Souther delivered an RBI single to left.
With one out, Ruebeck sent a ball into the left-center gap to score Souther and make it 2-0 but was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple.