Jacob Walker’s Walk-Off, Two-Run Single In Ninth Inning Preserves Bobcats’ Season
TYLER -- Before Hallsville's nine senior baseball players were to walk across the stage at their high school graduation Friday night, they all were faced with what could've been a tough reality: the end of their prep athletic career as well.
Jacob Walker, Logan Bailey, and Coby Weaver, and the rest apparently had no interest in seeing their baseball-playing days together end the same night.
Walker's two-out, two-strike, bases-loaded drive off the left field wall in the bottom of the ninth inning sent Hallsville to a dramatic 3-2 win over Frisco Wakeland in Game 2 of their Class 5A Region II semifinal playoff series Friday afternoon at Mike Carter Field.
Weaver, Thursday's Game 1 loser for Hallsville, tied the game at 1-1 in the seventh with a two-out, two-strike RBI single to right-center, and Bailey worked nine strong innings to help keep the Bobcats' (27-5) season alive for another day.
Hallsville's seniors, many of whom were instrumental in the Bobcats' berth at last year's state tournament in Round Rock, were free to shift their focus to graduation before the series concludes with Game 3 at 2 p.m. Saturday from Dallas Jesuit High School, the site of the series opener.
"I wouldn't even know how to describe that," Bailey said. "It would've been one of the worst nightmares. That's why we were like, 'We're not going down without a win.' We weren't about to lose out and graduate on the same night."
Carson Henderson doubled with one out in the bottom of the ninth, and after a flyout to center, Weaver was intentionally walked, which brought up Hallsville's No. 9 hitter Colton Oberthier.
Facing a 2-2 count, Oberthier hit a grounder to the left side, but Wakeland (21-11) third baseman JT Thompson's glove collided with Henderson, jarring the ball loose on what could have been the series-ending tag out.
That set the stage for Walker, who had been 0-for-4 on the day thanks to a couple of fine defensive outs recorded by Wakeland center fielder Brady Manning. Walker, a left-handed batter, worked the count to 3-2, and on the seventh pitch of the at-bat, roped an opposite-field shot over the head of Wakeland left fielder Ryan Monson.
"I was really just taking a deep breath," Walker said of the final at-bat. "I was thinking to myself, "we've fought way too hard for bad things to happen to us.' I hit it good, and the ball just carried, went over his head and I just went crazy. With the luck I've had, I thought the guy was gonna catch it."
What made the come-from-behind effort so stunning was the performance of Wakeland starting pitcher Austin Davis, who limited Hallsville to just one hit over the game's first six innings.
"We talked about fighting, we knew it was going to be a fight, we talked about that before the game," Mitchell said. "When your back's against the wall, there's only one way out. You've got to fight it out. We fought it out, and now we're back in the middle of the ring. Now, we've got to find a way to win tomorrow."
Hallsville's been in this situation once before during these playoffs, dropping the series opener to Waxahachie in the area round before reeling off consecutive wins to advance.
It remains to be seen whether Friday's rousing effort will carry into Saturday's Game 3.
"You want to believe that. If we were playing Game 3 right now, I'd really believe it," Mitchell said. "When you get to go home and kinda lick your wounds -- kinda what we did last night -- we know tomorrow's gonna be a different day. We're gonna come out and play as hard as we possibly can, and see what happens tomorrow."
Bailey, from his first base position, watched as Wakeland put up nine runs Thursday -- the most Hallsville pitchers have allowed all season. He took mental notes.
"I went to bed last night knowing I've got to get ahead of those batters because they can hit," he said. "If I got behind and had to throw a fastball, I knew they were going to hit it. That was my main focus today: getting ahead in the count, and it worked for me."
Bailey allowed two runs (one earned) on three hits with nine strikeouts and two walks (one intentional) on 108 pitches.
"This was my best outing," Bailey said. "I went to warm up earlier than I usually do, and I did that because I was I like, 'I don't want to be rushed today. This could be it. I'm gonna take my time getting loose real good, and just go at it.' And I threw everything I had at them for nine innings."
It almost wasn't enough.
Wakeland grabbed a 1-0 lead on Monson's two-out RBI single in the second, and Davis retired the first batter he faced in the bottom of the seventh with his team still clinging to the one-run advantage.
Hallsville's Jack Underwood and Henderson followed with consecutive singles to put runners at first and second, and after a strikeout for the second out, Weaver found himself in a 1-2 hole with the Bobcats' season on the line.
A clutch single to an opening in right-center brought in Underwood for the trying run, which forced extra innings.
"It's special, and that's what I told the guys," Mitchell said. "I said, 'something special's gonna happen, because you guys are a special group.' I'm so proud of how they fought. They stayed together, they didn't quit. I wouldn't expect that. It's just an exciting time for these kids."
Thompson led off the top of the ninth for Wakeland with a bloop double down the right field line, moved to third on Johnny Gonzalez's sacrifice bunt, and scored on Angel Avila's pinch-squeeze bunt, which gave Wakeland a 2-1 lead heading into the bottom of the inning.
But just like before, Hallsville had the answer.
"We came out here with the focus, and knew what we had to do," Bailey said. "We fought our tail-ends off every inning. We didn't give up, we stayed up in the dugout, and kept trying to make something happen."
Class 5A Region II Semifinals
Game 2 -- At Mike Carter Field, Tyler
Hallsville 3, Frisco Wakeland 2 (9 innings)
Wakeland 010 000 001 -- 2 3 0
Hallsville 000 000 102 -- 3 7 2
Pitchers and catchers
- Wakeland: Austin Davis and Jake White
- Hallsville: Logan Bailey and Colton Oberthier
- WP -- Bailey
- LP -- Davis
- Wakeland: JT Thompson
- Hallsville: Carson Henderson