ROUND ROCK — What went down as a routine 2-3 play in the score book was anything but ordinary.
With two down and a runner on first, Damon Gerik hit a slow roller just in front of Matthew Urbanovsky who quickly fielded the ball and fired it down to Jace Kolar at first.
Gloves and hats flew in the air as the Abbott Panthers dogpiled in the middle of the infield.
The Pack had just made history.
Abbott’s 11-7 victory over Fayetteville Saturday morning at Dell Diamond clinched the first state title in school history.
The MVP — senior Brent Mynar — struggled to articulate what the moment meant while a gold medal hung around his neck glistening in the sunlight.
“It feels great,” Mynar said. “To be working for it all year and finally be able to finish it off. Man, it’s really cool.”
Abbott was down to its final out with a runner on third, and Fayetteville had all the momentum.
The Lions had just plated three runs in the bottom of the sixth to cut what was once a six-run Panther lead down to one.
Abbott had just scored another run to take a two-run lead, but the Panthers needed some more insurance.
And Abbott’s nine-hole hitter, Nolan Kaska, stepped to the plate.
The junior left fielder — who was in the middle of a hitting slump — only needed one pitch to beat out a bunt single at first and breathe new life into “The Pack.”
“That kid, he’s one of the grittiest players I’ve ever coached,” Abbott coach Kyle Crawford said. “He’s been told he’s too small his whole life. Whatever. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. It was kind of a gamble. We knew that (Payton) Hemmitt kid that came in at that point had one pitch left. We debated whether to take. I coach with my gut instinct a lot, and I felt like he would get a good pitch to bunt, maybe something to swing at. Luckily it worked out. He did the job there, and we were able to capitalize off it.”
With Kaska on base, Weston Cantrell knocked him home with an RBI single to left field before scoring himself off an RBI single up the middle by Brent Mynar.
Mynar finished the day 3-for-5 at the plate with three RBIs and a pair of runs scored.
He also earned the start on the mound.
Mynar wasn’t pleased with his performance, though. He knew he could do better.
Mynar gave up four runs off six hits with four strikeouts and six walks through 3⅔ innings of work.
“He was really good early,” Crawford said. “Had to work around some walks. It probably wasn’t his ideal outing to get pulled in the fourth. But I’m super proud of that kid. He was man enough to tell me when it was time to get him. Then he plays shortstop and comes up with a huge hit in the seventh. He trusts the pack. He trusts the rest of the guys.”
Crawford knew he wanted Hunter Pope to close things out for the Panthers. The junior threw a no-hitter in the semifinals against Union Hill and still had about 20 pitches left before reaching the 110 maximum.
Crawford just needed someone to bridge the gap. And he found that guy in Brandan Brown, who picked up the win in 1⅓ innings of work.
Brown gave up three runs off four hits with two strikeouts.
“Brandan Brown is the unsung hero there,” Crawford said. “He came in and threw some really big innings to get it to Pope.”
When Pope took the mound in the sixth inning, he carried the mojo over from Friday.
He didn’t give up any hits while striking out two and walking one to earn the save.
“He loves this,” Crawford said. “That kid lives for this moment.”
None of the Abbott pitchers had to pitch from behind Saturday morning as an offensive explosion in the third inning gave the Panthers an early lead.
It was the bottom of the order that got things going as Brown was walked and Kyle Langford reached first on an error.
Once again, it was Kaska’s bat that took advantage of a big moment as Fayetteville’s pitcher fielded his bunt and overthrew the bag, scoring Brown.
Cantrell — who finished the day 3-for-4 with three RBIs and three runs scored — cleared the bases with a two-RBI single.
Mynar followed with an RBI triple to give the Panthers six runs in the frame.
“It was huge for sure,” Crawford said. “I wish we would have capitalized more on it early and padded the lead more. I guess it wouldn’t be a state championship if you got to do that. More than anything it settled the kids in, and we started relaxing and playing. That third-inning outburst, the two hits with two outs in the seventh were big. It got the lead back up to four. It helped us collect ourselves a little bit knowing that we had some cushion there.”
For the next two innings, though, the Panthers failed to score as the Lions began to claw their way back into the game.
Fayetteville cut the score to 6-4 after four innings.
Abbott answered in the sixth with two runs before the Lions plated three in the bottom of the frame.
“In our team meeting last night we talked about it,” Crawford said. “We said we better be ready for a grind, a battle. This is a state championship. If it was easy, I guess it would have been less stressful. We told them to prepare mentally for a battle and they did that as they had the ability to withstand everything and still come out on top.”
After the dogpile ended and the Panthers received their gold medals and state title trophy, they had one request.
That their team picture include their fans.
And that’s how things have been all season for Abbott.
It’s “The Pack,” a brotherhood amongst the team but a strong bond throughout the community.
“It’s unbelievable,” Crawford said. “I’m super proud of the guys.”