HUNTSVILLE — The pitchers came to play in this series.
And they’ll have to keep coming for at least one more.
In the opening game of their Region III-4A final series, Sweeny’s Caden Homniok and Robinson’s Chris Morrow waged a heck of a pitching duel, but it was the Bulldogs who were able to scratch out just enough runs to survive, 2-0. However, Robinson’s Jordan Rogers turned the tables in the second game, coming through with his own complete-game shutout in a 1-0 Rockets victory at Sam Houston State’s Don Sanders Stadium on Wednesday.
What figured to be a hotly-contested series has turned out as exactly that, and will now go to a decisive third game at noon Saturday back in Huntsville. The winner will advance to next week’s UIL Class 4A state tournament at UFCU Disch Falk Field in Austin.
In Game 1, Sweeny’s Homniok threw a complete-game, three-hit shutout, marking the first time all season that the Rockets (31-5-1) had been held scoreless in a game. The Sweeny pitcher wasn’t necessarily overpowering — he struck out five and walked three – but he pumped the ball in for strikes and let his defense work behind him, inducing five groundouts and seven flyouts.
Morrow was plenty solid for Robinson as well, as he scattered six hits over six innings of work while striking out seven and walking four. But much of that damage was done in the third inning. Sweeny (29-9) banged out three hits and picked up two walks in the third against Morrow, including a line-drive single to right from Nathan Nance that broke up the scoreless tie. The Bulldogs added one more in the inning when Blake Benavides worked a bases-loaded walk.
That proved to be enough, even though Robinson looked to have something going in the sixth. Jake Strain and Jace Walker both smacked singles to open the inning and bring the go-ahead run to the batter’s box. But Peyton Powell hit into a double play, and Strain ended up stranded at third when Rogers popped to right shortly thereafter.
In Game 2, Robinson’s Rogers gave the Rockets a clutch pitching effort in the biggest game of the season to even the series. Rogers outdueled Sweeny’s Nance, giving up only three hits in an efficient 87-pitch outing. He stuck out four and walked three, and threw 47 of his pitches for strikes. He improved to 11-1 on the year with the victory.
Meanwhile, Robinson struck early to give Rogers a lead to play with. In the bottom of the first, Walker hammered a one-out pitch over the wall in left for a solo home run.
That would turn out to be one of just four hits on the night for Robinson, but that was enough, thanks to Rogers neutralizing every Sweeny scoring threat. In the do-or-die seventh inning, Benavides gave the Bulldogs a bit of hope by working a leadoff walk off of Rogers. But the Robinson pitcher induced a double play grounder from Braden Norris, and then fanned Noah Pate for the final out.
If Robinson can win Saturday’s third game, it would advance to state for the fifth time in the past nine seasons.
Valley Mills-Windthorst series delayed
Valley Mills’ Region II-2A final series with Windthorst was pushed back a day due to the threat of bad weather.
The series will remain at Kennedale, but will now begin at 5 p.m. Thursday, with the second game to follow. Should a third game be needed, it would be 11 a.m. Friday, also in Kennedale.
Valley Mills (26-6) has surrendered only one run in its last three games behind the strong pitching of Chase Keeton and Elijah Degrate.