HEATH — Sometimes in baseball, miracles still do happen.
Down to its final out in the seventh inning, Whitesboro had generated almost zero offense and was staring at a winner-take-all Game 3. But all of a sudden, the Bearcats’ fortunes shifted, and they got a new lease on life.
Things had to break just right for Whitesboro, and the Bearcats took full advantage Friday night.
First, they mounted a two-out rally to tie the game and force extra innings. Secondly, they nullified Edgewood’s game-winner with an appeal in the ninth. And finally, the Bearcats won it in the 10th on Weston Hickman’s three-run inside-the-park homer, beating the Bulldogs, 4-1, to sweep their Class 3A Region II quarterfinal series at Rockwall-Heath High School.
“It was a wild game, and it was a testament to our kids to how they stayed in the whole time and battled to the end,” Whitesboro head coach Curt Cole said.
The Bearcats (24-8) will take on New Diana in the Region II semifinals next weekend. It’ll be the deepest-ever advance by the Bearcats in baseball.
Sophomore Christian Goedecke entered in relief of starter Dalton Vanlandingham in the seventh inning after Vanlandingham reached his pitch count limit.
Using a nasty curveball for strikes, Goedecke was nothing short of sensational, pitching 3 1/3 innings of one-hit shutout relief with five strikeouts and earning the win.
“So huge, so huge,” Cole said. “We held him back a little bit just because we’ve had Cayden (Cobb) and Dalton who’s gotten most of the innings. But we knew he has the stuff and when it came playoff time, for us to go far, guys have to step up, and he stepped up.”
Just like in the seventh, Whitesboro used a two-out rally in the top of the 10th to take the decisive lead.
Noah Greisen singled to right, and a grounder off the bat of Vanlandingham to short was thrown into the Edgewood dugout, putting runners at second and third. Up stepped Hickman, who smoked a line drive into the gap in left center, and by the time the left fielder got to the ball, Hickman was already streaking around third base.
“Throughout the game we’d been kind of struggling and getting a little frustrated with just how we hadn’t been hitting the ball,” Hickman said. “But as the game went along we were starting to connect on the ball and it just happened to fall in the right place.
“But it wasn’t just that. It was the defense and the whole team putting together the hits through the whole game.”
Goedecke pitched around a leadoff single in the bottom of the 10th to slam the door shut.
Until the seventh, the Bearcats had gotten exactly one hit off Edgewood starter Turner Bannister, a bunt single by Hickman in the fourth. Bannister had faced just one batter over the minimum as he got two quick outs in the seventh and was an out away from forcing a rubber game.
But the Bearcats had other ideas, and Cobb kept Whitesboro alive with a single through the hole at short. Kade Brewer followed with a sharp hit past first to move Cobb up 90 feet, and then a grounder off the bat of Scout Sangers to second was bobbled and thrown wildly to first, scoring Cobb with the tying run.
“The whole team came together in that inning,” Hickman said. “The hits that came were clutch, and we needed those. I don’t think we had the doubt that we were going to go through and win this game. We did what we came to do. We didn’t do it how we wanted to do it, but we did it.”
The game went to extras, and Bannister reached his pitch count limit with two out in the top of the ninth and was replaced by Trey Erwin.
In the bottom half of the inning, it appeared that Edgewood was going to walk off with a win when Hunter Robinson flied to right and Jayden Morgan, who had struck out but reached on a wild pitch, advanced to third. The throw in to third bounced away and Morgan scored what appeared to be the winner for the Bulldogs.
But not so fast, as Whitesboro threw to second for the appeal and the umpire’s arm went up, signaling that Morgan had left second base too soon. An argument ensued, but the game went to the 10th inning.
“There was a lot of emotions going through on that one,” Hickman said. “We got it in and we were expecting him to hold up at third. But it all came together and luck fell our way.”
Vanlandingham was quite solid in his start, bouncing back from an unearned run to keep the game close. Vanlandingham allowed six hits in 6 2/3 innings with five strikeouts.
“That’s Dalton,” Cole said. “When we put him out there, we expect zeroes on the board. He did a good job.”
Vanlandingham walked just one, but it was the runner that ended up scoring. Bannister reached to lead off the first and Kason Grant followed with a hit-and-run single. Whitesboro nearly got out of the inning unscathed, but a force play at second for the third out went wide of the bag, alloing Bannister to make it 1-0 — where it stayed for the next six innings.
“Compared to yesterday’s game, it was a very nerve-wracking game,” Hickman said.