HEATH — With one swing of the bat in the bottom of the seventh inning, the fortunes immediately changed.
Whitesboro was trying to protect a one-run lead. New Diana had loaded the bases with no outs.
After Christian Goedecke came on relief, the entirety of Game 1 of the Class 3A Region II semifinal series between the Bearcats and Eagles hinged on the very first pitch he threw.
“It was scary but I had my defense behind me,” Goedecke said. “They’ve been behind me for the past couple games so why would they leave me now?”
Cole Willeford lined into a double play at third and then a groundout allowed Whitesboro to hang on for the 5-4 victory against New Diana at Rockwall-Heath on Wednesday night.
“That’s how our games have been going,” Bearcat head coach Curt Cole said. “Better stay to the last out.”
Whitesboro (25-8) will try to sweep the series at 4 p.m. on Saturday. If New Diana (25-6) forces a deciding game, it will immediately follow.
New Diana, which hadn’t lost in the playoffs, was on the verge of at least sending the game to extra innings thanks to the meat of the order, starting with the second slot.
Lane Meshell bunted for a hit as third baseman Scout Sanders charged hard and stumbled as he fielded the ball. Tristan Swain was hit on the first pitch from Cayden Cobb, who was nearing his pitch limit, and Meshell was held at third on a hit to left by Landon Dorman.
Goedecke entered and, at the very least, was tasked with limiting the Eagles to a run.
“Christian’s a strikeout pitcher so I was hoping for a strikeout and then a double play,” Cole said.
Willeford’s shot was ticketed for the left field corner but ended up right in the glove of Sanders, who stepped on the bag to double off Meshell.
Goedecke finished off the Houdini act by getting Isaiah Martinez to ground out to short to end the game.
“They had the momentum but our guys aren’t going to quit,” Cole said. “They’re going to go to the last out.”
Whitesboro was held scoreless by Meshell over the final three innings and that helped New Diana inch back into the game.
The Eagles trimmed their deficit to a run in the bottom of the sixth inning. Martinez led off with a walk and everyone was safe on an error on a double play attempt. Cody Stanley put down a sacrifice and Dakota De Baun had a sac fly to left center. The tying run stayed a second as a flyout to center ended the inning.
An inning earlier, a leadoff triple by De Baun out of the reach of a diving attempt by center fielder Cody Robinson set the table. Jared Burton grounded to short and De Baun stayed anchored at third. Meshell walked and Swain had an infield single to make it 5-3.
The Eagles almost ran themselves out of the inning on Dorman’s soft popout to third. Meshell wandered too far off second and was going to be doubled off to end the inning. But Noah Greisen dropped the throw to give New Diana second life. Willeford popped out to short and the Eagles still trailed by two.
Whitesboro held a 5-2 lead in the middle of the fourth thanks to some well-placed hits. It started when Greisen was hit in the nine hole and then stole second. With one out Weston Hickman bunted down the third-base line for a hit before he stole second to put runners at the corners.
The Bearcats stole six bases, moved up on seven wild pitches and had another runner take second on wild-pitch walk.
“We have some speed and we use it,” Cole said. “That’s one of our advantages and we have to use it.”
A wild pitch allowed Greisen to score before Robinson hit a one-hopper to third. Swain came home to try and get Hickman but Willeford dropped the throw.
Then with two outs and a hit-and-run on, Kade Brewer lifted a ball to short right field. The second baseman went to cover the bag and then had to start back after the ball. He, the first baseman and the right fielder all converged but couldn’t come up with the RBI double.
New Diana had tied the game at two in the bottom of the third inning. A leadoff walk by the nine-hole hitter, De Baun, was followed by Burton’s roller to short for an infield single. Meshell sacrificed and Swain had an RBI hit to left. Dorman added a sac fly to right center to pull the Eagles even.
Whitesboro jumped to a quick 2-0 lead and forced Dorman to throw a ton of pitches in the process.
Dalton Vanlandingham opened the game with a walk and went to second on a wild pitch. Robinson split the outfielders with a triple to the left-center gap to put the Bearcats on the board and then doubled the margin when he scored on a two-out wild pitch.
The bases were left loaded after Brewer, Sanders and Brooks Barker walked. Dorman avoided further trouble with his third strikeout of the inning that also ended up being his 45th pitch of the frame and led to him only making it through four innings due to his pitch count falling four below the limit of 110.