Region champs! Gunter heads to state for first time in 20 years
NEVADA — The Gunter Tigers have been so good at winning games this spring that the waiting game is finally over.
Two decades worth of frustration, close calls and deep finishes were put to bed. Now Gunter is two victories from a state championship.
The top of the lineup continues to carry scorching hot bats to back another strong effort on the mound and the formula which has worked so well has sent the Tigers to the next round with the sweetest sweep of all after Gunter beat Atlanta, 6-0, to close out the Class 3A Region II final at Community and clinch a spot in the state tournament for the first time in 20 years.
“It feels unbelievable. I don’t know if words can really describe it,” Tigers head coach Daryl Hellman said. “Tons of pride and love for these kids and what they’ve done.”
Gunter (36-8) will play in a semifinal at either 9 a.m. or noon next Friday at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. The pairings will be finalized by Sunday.
“Dream come true,” senior center fielder Garrett Vogel said. “The fact that it can happen the last time I’m playing with these guys is amazing.”
This is the eighth appearance at state for the Tigers, joining squads from 1985, 1991, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001 and Gunter will be trying for its third title (‘94 and ‘98). The baseball team is also the third GHS program to make the state semifinals this academic year, joining football and volleyball.
“To be that team to break through, it’s an unbelievable feeling,” junior pitcher Riekkhen Bostick said. “And we’re only two wins away from taking this bad boy all the way.”
Bostick scattered seven hits and two walks with a pair of strikeouts, Vogel went 3-for-3 and drove in a run, Cade Dodson was 3-for-4 with a double and three RBI, Nash Daniel was 2-for-3 and scored twice and Trey Oblas drove in a pair for the Tigers.
Dex Ebarb singled and walked for Atlanta (24-13), which was trying to reach state for the second time and first since its only other appearance in 1998.
Gunter did all the scoring in the middle two innings and it was more than enough.
The Tigers put up four runs in the fourth to fashion the final score as five of the first six batters had hits. Carter Layton and Daniel kicked it off with singles that put runners at the corners and courtesy runner Zach Boland scored on a sac fly to shallow left by Vogel. Will Woodruff made a strong throw to the plate but it was off line just enough for Boland to get around a tag attempt.
Kaden Rigsby singled and as Daniel went to third, Rigsby took second on the throw. Dodson doubled to left to give Gunter a 5-0 lead and Oblas followed with an RBI double to right.
However, the Tigers still weren’t taking anything for granted with nine outs to go.
“Until you’re moving on, it’s never done,” Vogel said. “You have to stay locked in and take care of business.”
Gunter had jumped to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the third. Daniel and Vogel opened the inning with singles and a force at second left runners at the corners. Dodson pulled a hit through the right side to put the Tigers in front with Rigsby going first-to-third on the single. He then scored on Oblas’ sacrifice fly to center after the Rabbits made a pitching change.
Cooper McClure limited the damage there despite loading the bases on a walk by Cooper Wade and an infield hit from Landon Pelfrey. Colton Jolly hit a soft liner to second to end the inning.
Atlanta struggled the entire series to produce runs but the Rabbits had their chances. They loaded the bases four times across 14 innings and managed to get only one run from those situations, and that came on a walk. Atlanta stranded a total of 19 runners in the two games — 12 in scoring position — to go with four outs on the bases.
Bostick had only a couple of hiccups on the way to a shutout.
“I had to be aggressive. They’re a very patient team,” Bostick said. “They hardly every swing 0-0 or early in the count. If I could throw the curveball for a strike they wouldn’t swing.”
Atlanta loaded the bases in the second with two outs as Ebarb and Kale Carpenter walked around Woodruff’s single to left. The Rabbits came away empty after McClure grounded out to second.
In the fourth, Randall Mason, who took the loss, and Ebarb singled to start the inning but Mason tried to take third on a ball in the dirt and Layton threw him out for the first out. A foulout and groundout followed and the Rabbits were still down a pair of runs.
Jackson Warren had a one-out double to left-center that Rigsby almost made a great diving catch on. He tagged up on a flyout but was stranded at third as Bostick retired the final eight hitters he faced.
“I wanted Riekkhen to be able to go the distance and get the shutout because that’s what he deserved,” Hellman said.
Class 3A Region II
Note: Gunter wins series 2-0