Lufkin Sweeps Mesquite Poteet + Faces Whitehouse In Regional Championship Round
TYLER -- Lufkin exploded on Mesquite Poteet early in Game 2 Saturday at Mike Carter Field and cruised for a 7-2, series-clinching victory in the Class 5A Region II semifinal round.
Momentum-shifting sequences weren't limited to the batters' boxes though. The Panthers' defense snuffed out several Poteet chances to gain traction before the Metroplex club gave up a six-spot in the bottom of the second inning.
Lufkin's straight wins set up an all-East Texas series with Whitehouse in the 5A Region II championship round. East Texas will have a 5A baseball participant at the state tournament in two weeks for the first time since 2014.
"It is a great opportunity for our program," Lufkin head coach John Cobb said. "We get to play Whitehouse, which is another great program led by a great coach. They have great kids over there. It's going to be a battle."
Poteet (25-11) put its ace pitcher, Ryan Boaz, on the mound for Game 2. It strategically preserved him for the second game of the series and believed, paired with a hard-hitting offensive lineup, that it could jump back into the playoff round and set up a rubber game.
Logan Lair did his part for Lufkin (27-8), although he certainly had some help from his defense through three perfect innings.
Poteet's best chances to take control of the game came in the top of the second inning.
Leadoff hitter Billy Rogers got away a seeing-eye ground ball that rolled right in between Panthers second baseman Adrian Peña and first baseman Blake Lazarine out toward right field.
Peña ran down the ball, dove on it and flicked it to Lazarine for a close force out at the bag.
Hunter Broyles came up and drove a shot to left field, exactly where the sun was focussing for the early innings of the afternoon game. Luke Rowley put his glove up to block the sun, came forward, backpedaled, spun and somehow made the catch about 30 feet from the wall with his back facing home plate.
Lair struck out Poteet's designated hitter to close the frame.
"We always back up the pitcher," Peña said. "We do what we can. Like Coach says, diving bodies in the infield and doing anything for the pitcher. If it's easier for them, they're going to throw a good game. That's just what we focussed on. Getting good outs and making key hits."
The hits came in the bottom of the second. Lufkin worked Boaz for 43 pitches and batted around the order.
Max Quick and Dylan Murphy heated things up with quick base hits. Peña, the eight-hole batter, doubled to left field with one out to score both of the runners.
A fielding error allowed Tanner Green to reach safely and also allowed Peña to advance to third base.
With two outs and runners at the corners, Rowley lined through the right infield gap. Peña got home for a 3-0 advantage.
Lazarine walked on straight pitches immediately afterward and set up a 3-RBI double for Haylen Green.
Another Poteet error in the third put Murphy aboard with one out. Lufkin worked to bounce him around the bags.
Murphy scored on a wild pitch for a 7-0 lead just before Boaz got a strikeout to end the inning.
Poteet broke up Lair's perfect game bid on its first at-bat of the top fourth. The honor belonged to Kaleb Fletcher.
Lair allowed another hit in the fifth, but he maintained the 7-0 margin into the seventh inning. At that point, Cobb opted to place Kolten Eberlan in the game because the closer had not seen a live batter in weeks.
Eberlan allowed five runners aboard after getting the second out of the seventh and six runners in total. Poteet's Tyler Dearby recorded an RBI and Joseph Castillo got hit by a pitch with the bases loaded before Eberlain threw a strikeout looking to end the series.
"We put Kolten in there because he'll have to close out a game next week or the following week if we're able to advance that far," Cobb said. "He hadn't pitched in three weeks, so that's why we brought him into a live-game situation. To get him some work. We're going to need him next week against Whitehouse."
Not only is Whitehouse another East Texas team, it's Lufkin's District 16-5A rival. Lufkin finished second in the league while Whitehouse claimed the fourth and final playoff spot.
The Panthers defeated Whitehouse in the two teams' set of district games.
Lufkin enjoyed a disastrous Whitehouse defensive half-inning for a 5-3 win in Whitehouse on March 18 and a 3-2 walk off win in Lufkin on April 12.
Whitehouse has taken down three district champions en route to four playoff series wins since.
"It is going to be fun," Rowley said. "They fought really hard and we beat them on a walk off the second time around. They know how to compete. We're going to compete, too."
Lufkin 7, Mesquite Poteet 2
Class 5A Region II Regional Semifinals, Game 2
At Mike Carter Field, Tyler
Poteet 000 000 2 -- 2 4 2
Lufkin 061 000 X -- 7 7 0
Pitchers and catchers
- Poteet: Ryan Boaz, Jacob Deegan (4), Caleb Prater (6) and Chase Dinkel
- Lufkin: Logan Lair, Kolten Eberlain (7) and Connor Hanks
WP -- Lair
LP -- Boaz
- Lufkin: Haylen Green, Adrian Pena