CHINA SPRING – It was tough for Jesse Lopez to sleep Friday night.
The China Spring coach knew his team was so much better than their 13-3 loss to Liberty Hill Friday evening.
He and his coaching staff preach flushing a loss and moving on to the next game.
That was the Cougars’ only option as they had to win back-to-back games Saturday afternoon to keep their season alive.
And that’s what China Spring did as the Cougars topped Liberty Hill, 7-4 and 10-0, to advance to the regional semifinals where they will face Bridge City.
“We really wanted to come out in game two, try to compete and stay with them and hopefully come out on top,” Lopez said. “You never know what’s going to happen in game three. You just don’t. I didn’t expect a 10-0 game, that’s for sure.”
China Spring combined for 17 runs off 16 hits on Saturday.
Leading the way at the plate was Hobbs Price who went 6-for-7 with four runs scored and five RBIs.
“He’s just a sophomore,” Lopez said. “That’s unbelievable. He’s been swinging it. I never expected anybody to go 6-for-7, but I’ll take it. That’s for sure. He had a big time home run in the first game. It turned things around. That’s what we needed. We needed guys to step up and it was his turn. I’m glad he did.”
Price’s homer was one of the biggest hits of the day.
It came in the bottom of the second with China Spring already up 3-0.
The Cougars scored those three earlier in the inning, all of which came with three outs.
The sophomore crushed a ball over the left field wall which topped off China Spring’s five spot in the frame.
The Cougars held a steady lead until the Panthers cut it to one in the top of the sixth.
And it was Price who got things going.
He hit an RBI single to left field to score Blake Golden and later scored himself as Chandler Freeman walked Brayden Mathis with the bases loaded.
“Winning was a big task and we knew that,” Lopez said. “We knew if we could win game two (we could get things going). We pride ourselves on coming in here and playing on our field. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy for them to come in here and beat us.”
The game two victory was all the momentum needed for China Spring for the final game.
Liberty Hill threatened in the first inning with three base runners, but the Cougar defense kept them from coming home.
Then – with China Spring playing with more confidence – things started to unravel for the Panthers.
Liberty Hill committed four errors in the bottom of the first as four runs scored for China Spring.
“Last night we had seven (errors),” Lopez said. “Baseball is a crazy game. You just never know how it’s going to go. You’ve got to be mentally tough. Obviously that’s one of the things we preach. I like to say it’s a lot of coaching but it’s not. It’s on them.”
The next three innings the China Spring defense retired nine-straight Panther batters while the Cougar offense scored five more runs.
The 10th run for China Spring came from the bat of Brett Cain, who stood at the plate and watched his home run clear the center field wall before he started to run to first.
While the offense rolled, the China Spring defense committed only two errors on the afternoon behind solid pitching.
Cayden Johnson pitched 6⅓ innings in game two and gave up four runs off six hits with three strikeouts.
Jacob Bright came on in relief and retired two of the next three batters he faced to end the game.
In the final contest, it was all Carson Bell.
The junior threw a shutout while giving up one hit – to the first batter of the game – with four strikeouts through five innings.
“We really pride ourselves on how hard we work,” Lopez said. “That’s just how they’re raised here. In China Spring we have some of the best kids in the world. Their parents raise them right, they work their butts off and it pays off. We preach that the hardest working team is going to win the game. That’s just what they do.”