CAMERON — Braxton Ashcraft walked to the pitcher’s mound ready for a duel in Robinson’s third-round one-game playoff against Madisonville and he showed why he’s the Rockets’ ace.
Ashcraft, a Baylor signee, faced off with Mustangs ace Matt Rudis, who’s headed to TCU, and Ashcraft bore down to get the victory.
Robinson leadoff hitter Jordan Rogers drilled the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the first for a home run over the left-field wall, then Ashcraft shut down Madisonville for seven innings to lead the Rockets to a 2-0 win on Wednesday night at the Yards of Cameron.
Ashcraft struck out nine Mustangs, including two-hole hitter Ben Phillips for the final out in the top of the seventh. The Robinson pitcher threw the limit 110 pitches, but his final toss stranded two Madisonville runners and allowed the Rockets fans to let out a loud cheer of relief.
“I don’t know when was the last time I saw a pitching performance like that,” Robinson coach Bryan Kent said. “It was incredible and we needed it because their guy was lights out as well.”
Robinson (26-3-1), a Class 4A state finalist in 2017, advances to the 4A Region III semifinals to play the winner of the Bridge City-Jasper series.
Rudis worked into the sixth inning, striking out five and walking four. He held Robinson to a single run after opening the game with a costly mistake.
Rogers turned on Rudis’ first offering and sent the ball sailing over the head of Mustang leftfielder Corey Shuck, who looked up to watch it clear the wall.
Ashcraft followed by walking and stealing second, but Rudis got out of the inning and that’s as close as the Rockets would come to adding a run for the next five innings.
Robinson finally tacked on another run in the bottom of the sixth when leftfielder Jake Strain singled to left. He moved to second when Jace Walker walked and third when relief pitcher Bryce Bennett hit Rogers with a pitch. Robinson centerfielder Mason Cooper singled to left to drive in Strain and pad the Rockets’ lead.
Ashcraft had thrown 90 pitches when he went out for the top of the seventh, but Kent said he could see determination in the pitcher’s eyes.
“Being a starting pitcher in a one-game series, you do have a lot riding on your shoulders,” Ashcraft said. “You’re the catalyst for how the game is going to go. I just went out and tried to play my game and stay within myself.”
He struck out Shuck to start the ninth. Then Madisonville got runners to first and second on a walk and a single by nine-hole hitter Kasey Williamson.
That’s when Ashcraft went into lock down mode as he induced a weak bouncing ball which he fielded and threw to Robert Villa for a force out at third. After running the count to 3 balls and 0 strikes against Phillips, Ashcraft came back with three straight strikes to fan the final Mustang and end the game.