Hallsville Holds Off Frisco Liberty to Reach First Regional Championship
MESQUITE -- Pushed to a third game for the first time in this year's playoffs, Hallsville coach Scott Mitchell had a decision to make on who to start on the mound. He had a pretty good idea who would finish it.
Colton Brasher, who spent the last half of the regular season on the junior varsity, pitched five solid innings and staff ace Connor Reich worked the final two in Hallsville's 3-2 win over Frisco Liberty in Game 3 of their Class 4A Region II semifinal series Saturday afternoon at Tillery Field.
Hallsville (32-4) advanced to the school's first-ever regional championship and will face Mansfield Legacy next week with a berth at the state tournament on the line.
"It's one step closer to the goal that we set at the very beginning of the season for these kids," Mitchell said. "They set a goal of wanting to go to the state tournament. In my 26 years of coaching it's been a dream, and of course it still is right now. You've got to start trying to believe in that dream, and not be scared of it. And these kids aren't scared of it; they're wanting to make that a reality. What a great group of kids, showing great character. Those were two great teams playing today and fortunately for us we were the ones that came out on top."
Frisco Liberty, which fell to Whitehouse in last year's regional finals, put the tying and go-ahead runs aboard in the bottom of the seventh against Reich, who came on in relief in the sixth after tossing a one-hit shutout in the series opener Thursday night.
The inning began when Mario Quintanilla singled to right field, moved to second on Clay Crews' sacrifice bunt and to third with one out on a wild pitch. Reich then struck out Dylan Queen before plunking Austin Miller to put the potential game-winning run at first.
"It took a lot of belief in himself because a lot of pitchers would've probably collapsed right there," Mitchell said. "He hit a batter and the runner goes all the way to third on a wild pitch; now there's a runner at third with one out. But he gets two strikeouts … Connor just did a great job, I'm just so proud of him."
Reich, who has signed with TCU, has put on quite the show in his last three appearances. He struck out 18 in a shutout of Mount Pleasant in their one-game playoff last week, followed that up with a one-hitter in Game 1 vs. Frisco Liberty and closed the door Saturday in the series clincher.
"I knew that he was chomping at the bit to get in," Mitchell said of Reich. "After the third inning, he came up and said 'coach, I'm ready.' He's a senior and he's been my No. 1 for four years. When we left last night as a coaching staff, we talked about that's the guy -- win or lose -- I want to go with him. When the game's on the line, that's the guy I want in the game."
Reich preserved the lead for Brasher, who was outstanding in his own right. The junior left-hander allowed two unearned runs on five hits with six strikeouts and no walks in the game's first five innings.
'He did exactly what we asked him to do last night when we went back to the hotel," Mitchell said of Brasher. "We talked about our rotation and what we wanted to do. I felt like he might be able to give them a little trouble just because he can throw a change-up and curve ball for a strike. He's a soft-throwing lefty, but he works the strike zone and he gave us five innings, and that was one more inning than I was expecting."
Hallsville took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Jacob Walker tripled to the gap in right-center and scored on Reich's grounder to shortstop. Liberty found the equalizer in the bottom of the second when Judd Presley crossed home on an errant throw from the Hallsville second baseman on a double-play attempt.
The Bobcats went in front for good with two runs in the third. Nathan Bailey drew a leadoff walk, moved to second on Ty Meissner's sac bunt and to third on an infield single by Macailyn Wilder. Walker brought home Bailey on ground ball to short, and Reich followed with an infield hit before Austin Blakeley's RBI single to center scored Wilder to give Hallsville a 3-1 lead.
Liberty cut the deficit to a run in the bottom of the fifth. Quintanilla singled to lead off the inning and moved to second when the ball got past the Hallsville center fielder. A Miller infield hit moved Quintanilla to third, and Quintanilla came home on a wild pitch.
Hallsville 3, Frisco Liberty 2
Class 4A Region II Semifinal Playoff Series -- Game 3
At Tillery Field, Mesquite
Hallsville 102 000 0 -- 3 7 2
Frisco Liberty 010 010 0 -- 2 6 0
Pitchers and catchers
- Hallsville: Colton Brasher, Connor Reich (6) and Colton Oberthier.
- Frisco Liberty: Michael Cantrell and Dylan Queen.
WP -- Brasher.
LP -- Cantrell.
S -- Reich.
- Hallsville: Jacob Walker.