ERA — It had been nearly two months since Sam Rayburn found itself in a one-run game but that’s where head coach Bruce Mauppin and his Rebels were on Saturday.
And on the brand-new turf at Hornet Park, the Rebels got the bounce they needed.
Sam Rayburn pinch runner Weston Whiteside scored on an infield ground ball from Kade Smith in the bottom of the seventh inning to walk off with a 3-2 victory over the Blue Ridge Tigers in the Class 2A bi-district round on Saturday.
Sam Rayburn (15-7) will face Windthorst in the area round in a series at Ponder this week.
“Blue Ridge has a good team and we hadn’t really been in tight games in a long time,” Mauppin said. “I was a little bit concerned as to how we were going to respond but we found a way to get it done.”
After two straight hits to start the bottom of the second, the Rebels got on the board first in the bottom of the second inning thanks to an RBI single from Holden Reaves. Sam Rayburn would add another run in the third inning with an RBI double from Seth Stephens, who reached base three times.
From there, it was all about the pitchers. Riley Hall kept Blue Ridge (10-9) at bay and only allowed one hit through the first four innings and struck out 13.
Tiger pitcher Ross Feagins countered with seven strikeouts of his own.
“Riley did a great job out there,” Mauppin said. “He’s getting healthier and stronger and he really bore down and did a great job for us.”
The Tigers were able to break out in the fifth inning and it was almost a mirror image of how Sam Rayburn scored its first run. After Brody Wiggins was hit by a pitch and a Tate Matthews double started the frame, Colin Southard lined one into center field that drove in both runners.
Southard was thrown out at second trying to extend the play, but the Tigers were back in it and it set the stage for an eventful seventh inning.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Blue Ridge head coach Cole Jenkins said. “Give credit to Riley. He did a great job keeping us off balance. Ross went out and did the same thing and played well.”
Blue Ridge had runners on the corners with two outs but Hall struck out the last two Tigers and get out of the jam.
The Rebels grabbed their opportunity early as Reaves recorded his second hit — a leadoff single to left field. Whiteside entered the game as a pinch runner following the hit.
A pickoff to first base presented the opportunity he needed as he hustled from first to third base on an errant throw. After Blake Bledsoe was hit by a pitch, that put runners on the corners for Smith’s game winning hit.
“I feel like we expected to make it back to at least the third round after getting there last year,” Mauppin said. “I told our team we need to get better and we’ll have to be ready to face a good team in Windthorst next week.”