LINDALE -- Carthage senior pitcher William Rittenberry was in a groove, and then the skies opened up and brought forth a vicious thunderstorm that was accompanied by gusty winds and quarter-size hail.

Once the game resumed after a delay of close to two hours, any number of things could've transpired. What did happen was an eventful sixth inning that ultimately delivered Carthage a 6-2 win over West in Game 1 of their Class 3A area-round playoff series Friday night.

The Bulldogs (22-7), who have now won 18 of their last 19, can go for the series sweep in Game 2, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday back in Lindale.

"Talk about great karma," Carthage coach Jim Goldman said of the delay. "It happened in '09 when we won the state championship in the semifinal game. We waited out about a two hour and 30-minute one and we end up winning the whole thing. The kids have to be mentally tough and they were."

Carthage's William Rittenberry delivers during the Bulldogs' 6-2 win over West in Game 1 of their Class 3A area-round playoff series Friday night in Lindale. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

The game was halted by lightning, followed by a torrential downpour with Carthage leading 2-0 with one out in the top of the fifth. At the time, West (23-8) had yet to find the hit column and had just two baserunners against Rittenberry, who had faced just one batter over the minimum.

Goldman stuck with Rittenberry on the mound once the game resumed, but West was able to tie the game at 2-2 with a pair of unearned runs in the top of the sixth, scoring on Griffin Paxton's two-out double and an RBI infield single off the bat of Tyler Pustejevosky.

Carthage immediately responded by erupting for four runs in the bottom half of the inning to put the game out of reach. It started when Kolby Blissett reached base on a throwing error to begin the inning, and continued with three consecutive hits -- back-to-back RBI doubles from Jared Blissett and Rittenberry and a Jack Morris run-scoring single up the middle to push Carthage's lead to 5-2 and chase West starter Nick Kucera from the game. Tyler Musgrove later added a two-out bloop single to score the Bulldogs' fourth run of the frame.

"(Rittenberry) pitched a great game," Goldman said. "In that sixth inning they got to us a little bit, but the kids really came out swinging the bat. It was a big play with Kolby being safe at first and then we started hitting the ball real well. Jared had a great at-bat, William had another great at-bat, Jack had a great at-bat. And then (Rittenberry) came out and shut them down."

Rittenberry needed just seven pitches to close the door in the top of the seventh. He allowed two unearned runs on just two hits with nine strikeouts in his 99-pitch complete-game victory.

West's Brandt Shilling throws the ball to first to record an out against Carthage during Game 1 of their Class 3A area-round playoff series Friday night in Lindale. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

"Mentally tough," Goldman said of Rittenberry. "Those guys are hungry and that was big, William doing that. I don't know what the delay was … close to two hours. And it was probably the biggest advantage for them because he was in a rhythm. They were trying to get us out of rhythm at the end of the game with timeouts, complaining about this and that, then coming out and complaining about people in the stands. That's crazy."

Carthage took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on Morris' sac fly RBI that followed Rittenberry's leadoff triple. The Bulldogs loaded the bases with nobody out in the third, but had to settle for Kolby Blissett's fielder's choice RBI.

The series shifts to Game 2 where Carthage's Cole Clinton is expected to be opposed by West's ace, left-hander Lane Willenborg, who tossed a one-hit shutout against Carthage in last season's playoffs.

"We've got to get one tomorrow," Goldman said. "Last year the scenario was a little bit different; we were down a game and came back and (won two). They saved their No. 1, the left-hander, and we will see him in the first game tomorrow no doubt and we've got to find a way to win a game."

Carthage will be without starting center fielder and leadoff man Terian "Tee" Goree, who will be competing the 400 meter dash at the UIL state track meet Saturday afternoon.

"How about Tee Goree coming out here, running for the state championship (in the 400 meter dash Saturday)," Goldman said. "He showed what a team guy he was by getting here and playing. That's huge, that was big for our team, for our psyche, our morale, whatever you want to call it."

Carthage's Anthony Chhor makes contact during the Bulldogs' 6-2 win over West in Game 1 of their Class 3A area-round playoff series Friday night in Lindale. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Carthage 6, West 2

Class 3A Region III Area Playoff Series -- Game 1

At Lindale ISD Baseball Complex

West            000    002    0    --    2    2    2
Carthage      011    004    x    --    6    6    1

Pitchers and catchers
  • West: Nick Kucera, Bailey Horn (6) and Jordan Mattlage
  • Carthage: William Rittenberry and Jack Morris.

 

WP -- Rittenberry.
LP -- Kucera.

 

Doubles
  • West: Griffin Paxton.
  • Carthage: Jared Blissett, Rittenberry.

 

Triples
  • Carthage: Rittenberry.