ANNA — The pitching depth and offensive consistency that Gunter possesses will play a huge role in how far the Tigers advance in the playoffs. Those traits certainly did in Game 3 of their Class 3A Region II quarterfinal series against Farmersville on Saturday.
The Tigers gave the ball to Bo Whitteker for 5 2/3 innings, then Kaden Satre overcame a rocky first couple of at-bats for a gutsy save as Gunter held on for a 7-5 win at Anna High School to advance.
“Bo came up and did well, and Kaden came in and did really good, just like he did last week,” Gunter head coach Kerry Clement said. “Kaden’s been pretty solid for us.”
Gunter (31-7) advances to face Beckville in the Region II semifinals at sites and times to be determined. Clement said because of Gunter’s graduation Friday, the series will begin on Thursday and end with two games on Saturday.
The Tigers rebounded from a three-hit performance in Friday’s Game 2, a 2-0 loss at the hands of Fighting Farmers junior Lyle Hibbitts which sent the series to a third and deciding game Saturday.
The Tigers scored runs in every inning except the sixth on Saturday, giving Whitteker some breathing space and keeping the pressure on the Farmers.
Braiden Clopton, Whitteker, Bryson Jolly and Matt Hunter all finished with two hits.
“That Hibbitts kid really shut us down last night,” Clement said. “It was good to bounce back and put the ball in play and get some runs again. We hadn’t been shut out all year.”
Whitteker allowed four runs on five hits, striking out five and walking five. After giving up a game-tying two-run triple in the second inning, Whitteker settled in and kept the Farmers at bay until running out of gas with two out in the sixth.
Whitteker put the Tigers on top in the first on a line single to center, scoring Clopton, who had walked to start the game. Gunter made it 2-0 and chased starter Kade Dunlap in the second as Dillon Tinjero walked and his courtesy runner, Peyton Lowe, scored on a hard shot off the glove of Braxton Hacker.
In the home half of the second, Caleb Twyford tripled with two out to tie the game, but in the next inning Whitteker led off with a double and later scored on a Hunter groundout, giving Gunter the lead for good.
The Tigers made it 5-2 in the fourth with perhaps the key play of the game. With Logan Nelson at third and Clopton at second, Hacker attempted a pickoff throw to third, but the ball got away and both runners scored.
“The pickoff attempt at third was huge,” Clement said. “Those two runs gave us a little cushion and that hurt (the Farmers).”
Daylan Bower’s RBI double in the fifth added a run, which was needed, as it turned out.
In the sixth, a double and a walk spelled the end of Whitteker’s day on the mound, and reliever Satre was greeted by a two-run triple by Farmersville’s Levi Dale, followed by a Chase Hacker single which cut Gunter’s lead to a run. Satre, though, induced a flyout to center to end the threat with the Tigers still on top.
Gunter added one more run on a bases-loaded walk to Trey Carr, and Satre retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh to nail down the series.
After Thursday’s series-opening win for Gunter, the Tigers’ jets were cooled on Friday night by Farmers ace Hibbitts, who almost pitched a complete-game three-hit shutout before reaching his pitch limit with one out to go.
Hibbitts was also problematic at the dish, batting 3-for-4 with an RBI.
Tinajero, Mason Mazerolle — seeing his first plate action of the year as he recovers from knee surgery — and Nelson had the three singles for Gunter.