LONGVIEW -- For four years, Hallsville coach Scott Mitchell has always been able to count on Connor Reich. And the senior pitcher re-affirmed his coach's faith with another masterful performance.

Reich tied a career-high with 18 strikeouts in a complete-game, two-hit shutout of Pine Tree in the Bobcats' 1-0 win at Field of Dreams in a clash between the top two teams in the District 14-4A standings.

"He came out tonight and competed about as well as you can ask anybody to compete," Mitchell said of Reich. "He's got four pitches and he commanded the strike zone with all four of them. What an amazing job on the mound, just an incredible job."

Hallsville's Connor Reich winds up for a pitch during the Bobcats' 1-0 win over Pine Tree on Friday night in Longview. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Hallsville (22-2, 6-1), ranked No. 5 by the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association, is now two games clear of everyone else in the district with three regular-season games remaining.

"When Hallsville and Pine Tree play it's always intense, it's always fun and there's always something riding on it," Mitchell said. "That speaks volumes for both programs … we compete against each other every year it seems like for the district championship, or to be in the playoffs, or something of that nature. And that's basically what it was for tonight, for the lead."

Hallsville and Pine Tree (15-8-2, 4-3) shared the 14-4A title a season ago, but thanks to Reich's performance, the Bobcats are in prime position for the outright league crown after sweeping the season series from their arch-rival.

"It's very important," Reich said of the win. "Obviously we needed to win this game. They tied us in district last year. The No. 1 thing we wanted to do this year is go to state, but first not let Pine Tree tie us again for the district championship. They understood that they needed this game too, but luckily we got the win."

Pine Tree's Chandler Minze delivers against Hallsville during their game Friday night in Longview. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Reich (6-1) threw 115 pitches, allowing just two singles. He hit a batter, intentionally walked one and had one Pirates hitter reach on an error. But other than that, Reich was on the money, retiring the last 10 men he faced.

"I've never had command of every single pitch just about (like I did tonight)," said Reich, who has signed to play baseball with TCU next spring.

Added Mitchell: "I've got to give his catcher credit, too. Nathan Bailey, he called a great game. We've kinda gone to letting those two guys call their own game; they're both seniors. It's really changed Connor's performances, because his outings the last two times have been incredible."

Reich's only loss of the season occurred earlier in district -- a 1-0 defeat to Sulphur Springs. But this time, Hallsville's offense gave their star pitcher just enough support to come out on top.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Hallsville's Logan Bailey quickly fell behind in the count 0-2, but slapped Pine Tree pitcher Chandler Minze's offering the other way for the clutch, game-winning RBI single to left field.

"That was a huge at-bat," Mitchell said. "Logan's been struggling a little bit at the plate, and we're really working on trying to stay on the baseball and trying to go the other way with the pitch. He had a good at-bat in his first at-bat; he lined out to left field. That told me right there that he was staying on a pitch, and he stayed on this pitch and hit it where it was pitched to drive in the run."

Hallsville's Lance Lassen heads for third base during the sixth inning of the Bobcats' 1-0 win over Pine Tree on Friday night in Longview. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

That one pitch spoiled an otherwise spectacular performance by Minze (6-2), who allowed just five hits and stuck out three in seven innings. The Pine Tree right-hander only needed 74 pitches on the night against a Hallsville offense that put up 15 runs in the two teams' previous encounter.

"Chandler (Minze) did a great job of just mixing his pitches in," Mitchell said. "He competed just as well as Connor did. We were able string a few hits together. We tried to get a bunt down, but didn't execute that; I thought that was going to kinda hurt us a little bit. The guys that came through in that inning, they produced. It was one run, but that was all we needed. It's nerve-racking."

The sixth inning began with back-to-back singles by Lance Lassen and Jacob Walker. Macailyn Wilder failed in an attempt to bunt the runners over before popping out in the field for the first out. Reich followed with an opposite-field single to right, loading the bases.

Austin Blakeley then hit a come-backer to mound, and Minze came home for the second out. That set the stage for Logan Bailey's heroics.

"I challenged the kids in the sixth inning," Mitchell said. "Connor was throwing a heck of a baseball game, and we needed to support him with a run. And we did, and he held it up."

Both teams return to action Tuesday night. Hallsville hosts Sulphur Springs, while Pine Tree travels to Marshall.

Hallsville's Logan Bailey connects for an RBI single in the sixth inning of the Bobcats' 1-0 win over Pine Tree on Friday night in Longview. (Christopher R. Vinn, ETSN.fm)

Hallsville 1, Pine Tree 0

District 14-4A Baseball

At Pine Tree's Field of Dreams, Longview

Hallsville            000   001   0   --   1   5   2
Pine Tree          000   000   0   --   0   2   0

Pitchers and Catchers
  • Hallsville: Connor Reich and Nathan Bailey.
  • Pine Tree: Chandler Minze and Blake Adams.

 

WP -- Reich (6-1).
LP -- Minze (6-2).