Gunter beats Whitesboro after being pushed to deciding contest
DENTON — It started with a stellar outing on the mound and ended with one that was almost as good. The bookend performances outweighed a one-inning hiccup in the middle contest and helped propel Gunter to the next round.
"Any game, especially in the playoffs, comes down to how you pitch," Tigers head coach Daryl Hellman said. "We've got a pretty deep group. We have a really good option no matter who we want to throw."
In this case, Cooper Wade threw a two-hitter and the Tigers did just enough at the plate for a 3-0 victory over Whitesboro in Game 3 to win a Class 3A Region II area round series at Denton Guyer.
Gunter (30-7) advances to face Maypearl in a region quarterfinal series at Justin Northwest. Game 1 is on Wednesday, Game 2 is on Thursday and Game 3, if necessary, is on Saturday. All start times are 7:30 p.m. It is the eighth time since 2012 the Tigers have reached the third round.
It was the 13th shutout by the Tigers' staff on the season and their fifth in the last eight games. Isaac Villanueva had a no-hitter in Game 1 and Riekkhan Bostick allowed two hits through five innings in Game 2 before Whitesboro rallied to extend the series. Across 20 total innings, the Bearcats didn't have a hit in 16 of them.
"I felt good because we have such a deep pitching staff. Cooper's really been our No. 2," Hellman said. "But guys like Riekkhan and Jacob Morris are right there and have been really good too."
Wade only struck out two to go with a pair of walks but got 16 outs on the infield, Trey Oblas singled, drove in a run and walked and Colton Jolly singled and scored for Gunter.
Greyson Ledbetter didn’t allow an earned run on four hits with nine strikeouts and three walks in five innings before Maxx Parker threw a 1-2-3 sixth and Major Ledbetter walked and was hit by a pitch for Whitesboro (22-8), which was looking to make the region quarterfinals for the first time since a state semifinal appearance in 2017.
Gunter did all of the scoring in the bottom of the third inning. Nash Daniel started it with a walk, Jolly singled and a wild pitch moved them into scoring position.
Whitesboro played the infield in and Garrett Vogel grounded to second but it wasn’t fielded cleanly by Blake Beste, who then tried for the out at first. His throw went into the Gunter dugout and both runners scored.
With two outs in the frame, Oblas pulled an RBI single to right to add to the advantage.
"We had that one good inning," Hellman said. "They did what they needed to do. It turned out to be enough. We've had a lot of close games down the stretch that were down to the wire."
Gunter’s best chance to add to its lead came when it loaded the bases in the fifth with two outs. Kaden Rigsby and Oblas walked around Cade Dodson’s single to right. But Greyson Ledbetter induced a groundout to short to end the inning.
The Tigers' only other inning with a base runner was the second when Landon Pelfrey reached on an infield single to short with one out but a forceout and strikeout ended the frame.
Whitesboro put a runner on in each of the first six innings but couldn't turn any of those situations into a run.
Torran Naglestad reached on an error with one out in the first and was sacrificed to second but never went any farther.
Major Ledbetter walked with two outs in the second and Parker ended up stranded at third in the third after he singled up the middle, stole second with one out and went to third on a two-out wild pitch.
Paul Griffith walked with one out in the fourth before Mac Harper grounded into a double play.
Major Ledbetter was hit by a pitch to open the fifth inning but a force on a sacrifice attempt preceded a groundout and a strikeout to keep the Bearcats off the board.
A one-out infield single by Jace Sanders saw him end up at second on a two-out balk.
Whitesboro forced the deciding contest with a 7-5 victory. The Bearcats batted around in the sixth inning to put up five runs and turn a 3-2 deficit into a four-run advantage.
With one out Sanders and Griffith singled around Greyson Ledbetter getting hit by a pitch. Harper, who earned the win, beat out an infield single to short with a headfirst dive to tie the score at three.
After a force at home for the second out, Beste had a two-run single to left and Parker and Jacob Smith plated runs to cap the outburst.
But Whitesboro had to hold on as Gunter got a two-out, two-run single from Dodson in the top of the seventh and he represented the tying run at first before Naglestad came on for the final out — a liner to first by Oblas — to preserve the victory.
Oblas went 2-for-4 with an RBI single in the fourth which cut Gunter’s deficit in half and a two-run double in the sixth that gave the Tigers a 3-2 advantage.
Whitesboro had taken a 2-0 lead in the third on an error and then an RBI single from Sanders, who was 2-for-3 and also scored.
"Whoever wins Game 2 has the momentum," Hellman said. "After we lost we knew we had to respond and the kids did that. We were going to have to earn it and Whitesboro definitely made us earn it."
Class 3A Region II
At Denton Guyer