The Valley Mills baseball team opened its regional quarterfinal series against District 14-2A rival Crawford with a single mindset — win the first one.
Eagles starting pitcher Chase Keeton made that happen with a sharp performance, leading Valley Mills to a 9-1 victory Thursday night at Waco ISD’s Veterans Field.
Valley Mills advanced to the regional semifinals a year ago, despite dropping a pair of series-openers along the way. This time around, the Eagles are attempting to skip some of the drama.
“That’s what we focused on all week, go get Game 1,” Valley Mills coach Shane Keeton said. “That’s our big focus right now and then we’ll see what we can do from there.”
The Eagles, who are now 3-0 in series openers in these playoffs, face off against Crawford in Game 2 of their series at 4:30 p.m. Friday back at Veterans Field.
The Pirates will be relieved not to face Chase Keeton on the mound again.
Keeton struck out 11 Crawford batters, including all three men he faced in the bottom of the seventh to end the game. He scattered four hits, all singles, and walked just two on the way to the victory.
“He had command of all three of his pitches,” Shane Keeton said. “He was on tonight, he really was. He did what he had to do.”
Valley Mills scored in each of the first four frames to build a commanding 7-0 lead.
Short stop Cory McNair singled in the top of the first, stole second and moved to third on an error. That allowed him to score on Elijah Degrate’s sacrifice fly to center field.
The Eagles made it 2-0 in the top of the second when nine-hole hitter Jayson Shanafelt hit a single up the middle to score Copper Nix.
Valley Mills then broke the game open with a four-run rally in the third. First baseman Jace Navarro got it started with a single to left and later scored on a Pirate error at home plate.
Eagles Nix and Tyler Philipp capped the surge with back-to-back run-scoring singles that gave Valley Mills control.
Crawford responded with a run in the bottom of the fourth when Landry Bruce worked a lead off walk and later scored on an infield grounder by Casen Ewing.
But that’s all the Pirates could get back as Keeton induced a ground out to end the inning and strand a pair of runners.
Valley Mills added a couple of insurance runs in the top of the seventh, but they only served to make a slow game last even longer. The Eagles-Pirates contest dragged on for almost three hours, causing the Bosqueville-Riesel game, the second contest of the night at Veterans Field, to start after 9 p.m.
The Eagles are now 3-0 against Crawford this season after sweeping the Pirates in 14-2A action.