HENDERSON -- Carthage catcher Gunner Capps was pretty much the alpha and the omega against Henderson's effort to pull off a statement win Wednesday in the District 16-4A opener.

Capps drove in the game-tying run in the third inning to dig the Bulldogs out of an early two-run hole, stopped the Lions' best chance to regain control in the latter innings and then scored the go-ahead run in the sixth toward a 4-2 road victory for TxHighSchoolBaseball.com's 24th-ranked Class 4A team.

"This was definitely a big challenge with Henderson being our rival," Capps, a sophomore, said. "Henderson has great fans, so we knew we were going to hear them. We knew they were going to be rowdy in their dugout. We just had to stay within ourselves and attack the game like we know how."

Henderson Nick Parker set up for the first pitch.
Nick Parker recorded 101 pitches in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out six Carthage batters while allowing four hits and three earned runs.

Henderson (5-4, 0-1) gave its fans reasons to be excited early.

Starting pitcher Nick Parker worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam on his 35th pitch of the first inning. In the bottom half of the frame, Parker hit an RBI double for the lead and the Lions worked Dillon Morris for 39 throws en route to a 2-0 edge.

Morris and Parker kept the game fair the rest of the way. Their pitch counts were within four throws of each other after the first, fourth and fifth innings.

Parker gave way to Brennon Henderson after 5 1/3 innings of work. Morris was up against the newly-mandated pitch count of 110 after completing the sixth inning and Seth Ballenger ultimately earned the save.

With the two starters turning in about the same performance, the district game and rivalry simply came down to which team did the most with its opportunities.

Capps -- and therefore Carthage (7-4, 1-0) -- capitalized.

Leadoff hitter Brewester Griffith drew a walk to start the third frame and a throwing error on Kolbey Sharpe's sacrifice bunt put both players in scoring position.

Shortstop Kason Davis hit a one-out sacrifice fly to plate Griffith. Capps followed the breakthrough up with a chopper through the middle gap of the infield and scored Sharpe from second base for the 2-2 tie.

Morris, who did not allow a runner beyond first base between the second and the fourth innings, got hit mojo rattled by Henderson leadoff hitter Lanson Simmons on the first pitch of the fifth frame. Simmons moved to second base four tosses later on Dalton Simmons' sacrifice bunt.

Carthage coach John Goodwin opted to intentionally walk Parker to avoid a repeat of Parker's first-inning RBI double. Henderson's opportunity to reassert control of the game arrived with one out.

The Lions' big break turned out to be its breakdown.

Morris' 2-2 pitch against Drew Galyean, who recorded Henderson's second RBI of the first inning, hit the dirt and Lanson Simmons bolted away from an already big lead at second base. Capps blocked the ball and had enough control on it to feed Sharpe for an easy tag as Lanson Simmons tried to work his way back.

Galyean struck out swinging the very next pitch to end the threat.

Capps took an 0-1 pitch to deep left-center field with one out in the next half inning for a double and reached third base on Morris' looper into shallow left field. Baylor Colley strung together a third straight hit to score Capps and Callahan Baldree's sacrifice to center field brought in Morris as an insurance run the next at-bat.

Morris knocked down Henderson's side in order in the bottom sixth and Ballenger did the same in the seventh.

Carthage returns to action today as a member of the Lufkin Tournament's field and opens its stay with games against Chapel Hill and Huntington. By the end of the day, it will have played three games in 24 hours.

Henderson will begin White Oak Tournament competition today. Fortunately, it only has Harmony on its day one schedule.

"This is big," Goodwin said. "Especially in our league where you start so early, then we all have tournaments this weekend and then most of us have district games Tuesday. Everybody is going to throw their top guys. I'm not even worried about what happens in the tournament. We had to win this one.

"If you lose tonight and then go have a rough weekend, it could snowball on you in a hurry. Starting out 1-0 is a breathe of relief, so hopefully that gives us some momentum going into this weekend."

Carthage pitcher Callahan Baldree winds up for a pitch.
Dillon Morris allowed two earned runs, both in the first inning, and pitched a shutout afterward until hitting the pitch limit at the end of the sixth inning.

No. 24 Carthage 4, Henderson 2

District 16-4A
At Henderson High School

Carthage              002    002    0    --    4    5    1
Henderson           200    000    0    --    2    4    1

Pitchers and catchers

  • Carthage: Dillon Morris, Seth Ballenger (7) and Gunner Capps
  • Henderson: Nick Parker, Brennon Henderson (6) and Levi McGee

WP -- Morris
LP -- Parker
-- Ballenger


Carthage: Capps
Henderson: Parker, Dalton Simmons

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