Crawford Knocks Off Harleton In State Semifinals, 7-4
ROUND ROCK -- The Harleton Wildcats entered the UIL state baseball tournament with only two losses in 30 games, but a few uncharacteristically crucial miscues cut their season one game short of the championship game.
Crawford put together a pair of late three-run innings for a 7-4 defeat of Harleton in a Class 2A semifinal Wednesday afternoon from Dell Diamond.
The Pirates (26-6) will meet defending state finalist Flatonia (24-6) at 9 a.m. Thursday for the championship.
"We've kinda been underdogs all season, going into every series," said Wildcats first-year coach and Harleton alum D.J. Beck. "We just didn't play well enough to win today."
Harleton (28-3) committed five errors, had three runners thrown out on the bases, and left the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, trailing 4-3.
"If you don't do the little things, it'll come back to bite you. Not making the routine plays kinda hurt us," Beck said.
Crawford starter Nate Moenning (11-1) walked Harleton's Cody Fregia to began the sixth, which forced a pitching change. After senior reliever Braden Murphy retired the first two batters he faced, consecutive walks loaded the bases for Harleton senior Zach Shepherd.
"Braden had been our closer for three years," said Crawford coach Randy Smith. "I didn't want to tell Nate, but I knew as soon as there was a baserunner, I'm going to Braden. I'm not saving anything for tomorrow."
Murphy struck out Shepherd on a breaking ball out of the zone to end the threat.
"We had the right man in the right spot," Beck said. "(Zach Shepherd) has come through time and time again all season long. (Murphy) just threw a tough pitch."
Crawford provided Murphy with three insurance runs in the top of the seventh.
Fregia doubled with two outs to score Joe Earle in the bottom of the inning, but Murphy struck out Jacob Earle for the game's final out.
"When you're at a small school, you're really not fortunate enough to have closers," Smith said. "Braden was that young freshman, sophomore and just trained him to be (a reliever). "He's been starting, but as we've got in the playoffs there've been a couple times where he's come in and had to relieve. I'm not saving anything for tomorrow."
Moenning gave up three runs on six hits with one strikeout and three walks in five innings.
Harleton, which features a bevy of underclassmen in impact roles, appeared to be good spirits following the loss. The Wildcats will lose five seniors -- Joe Earle, Dustin Reddock, Josh Ready, Shepherd, and Jacob Earle.
"Our seniors are great, they won't let us get down," Beck said. "They're picking us up all the time, and it's a good group of kids. It's been a pleasure to coach them."
At times, Harleton sophomore pitcher Will Davis (12-2) was dominant, allowing just a run on two infield hits through four innings -- at one point retiring nine consecutive Crawford batters.
Davis finished surrendering six runs (five earned) on five hits with five strikeouts and three walks in six innings.
"He got to pitch in the regional semifinals as a freshman, and he was our No. 2 guy last year," Beck said. "And as a sophomore to make it here on this stage and to perform like he did … I expect big things from him (in the future). He's a competitor."
Murphy and and Bo Pearson each had two RBIs, while Braden Nemec had two hits and scored three runs to lead Crawford offensively.
Levi Pilkington drove in two runs, while Joe Earle, Fregia also had RBIs for Harleton.
"Will Davis had a curve ball that he couldn't find in the beginning, but man about the third inning, he found it," Smith said. "And we tried to take it away a little bit."
Moenning gave Crawford a 1-0 lead in the fourth on a RBI single. Moments earlier, it appeared Harleton turned a double play, but catcher's interference was called, which gave the Pirates runners at first and second with nobody out.
Harleton answered immediately with two runs in the bottom half of the inning on Pilkington's two-out, two-run single scoring Mason Goode and Fregia.
Crawford's first three-run inning came in the fifth as Murphy ripped a two-RBI double down the third-base line, and later scored from second on Pearson's bunt single.
Harleton cut the deficit to 4-3 in the next half inning when Joe Earle's two-out single to center field scored Ready.
"I love to compete against good people, and the way (Harleton) played the game was the right way," Smith said. "In our society we don't have enough of that. But it's good to come out and see good kids play good baseball, and see what happens."
Class 2A Baseball State Semifinal
At Round Rock's Dell Diamond
Crawford 7, Harleton 4
Crawford 000 130 3 -- 7 5 2
Harleton 000 210 1 -- 4 7 5
Pitchers and catchers
- Crawford: Nate Moenning, Braden Murphy (6) and Koby Smith
- Harleton: Will Davis, Zach Shepherd (7) and Jacob Earle
- WP -- Moenning (11-1)
- LP -- Davis (12-2)
- S -- Murphy
- Crawford: Murphy
- Harleton: Cody Fregia