When Valley Mills lost the first game of the Class 2A Region II quarterfinals, all coach Shane Keeton asked of his players was to give their best effort as long as they were still alive.
The Eagles listened and won the last two games, including Friday night’s 10-7 decision, to knock off Crawford and advance to the region semifinals.
Amassing 11 hits, the Eagles produced the kind of offense Keeton hoped for after forcing a third game with a 2-1 win late Thursday night at the WISD athletic complex. Valley Mills will face Archer City in the region semifinals at a date and site to be determined.
“We came out swinging the bats well,” Keeton said. “That was a big focus because we didn’t swing them too well yesterday. I think we got a little lucky to make it to the third game. But I have faith in these kids. All night long I had no doubt these kids were going to show up today.”
Chase Keeton, Tyler Philipp, Cooper Buxkemper and Caden Collins collected two hits apiece for the Eagles (24-6). The Pirates (13-12-1) also finished with 11 hits with Garrett Pearson and Tanner Merenda leading the way with two hits apiece.
“I thought our kids the last two days competed and that’s all you can ask for,” said Crawford coach Randy Smith. “I’ve got some kids who will get after it. The guys we had on the mound I challenged the last two weeks and they did a lot better. We were trying to find a way. We did a lot of growing up. The seniors stepped up and I’m proud of them.”
The Eagles took command in the opening inning by scoring three runs.
Crawford pitcher Bowden Hooser hit Keeton with a pitch to start the game before Cory McNair singled. Following Elijah Degrate’s sacrifice bunt that advanced both runners, Philipp ripped a two-run single to center field.
Buxkemper’s single brought in Philipp with the third run of the inning.
Valley Mills made it 4-0 with Keeton’s run-scoring single in the second inning, but the Pirates responded with a pair of runs in the bottom of the inning highlighted by Merenda’s run-scoring single.
In the third inning, Hooser walked Degrate, Buxkemper and Cooper Lane to load the bases before Collins drilled a two-run single up the middle to give the Eagles a 6-2 lead.
Crawford’s Carter Hooser walked and scored on Buxkemper’s wild pitch in the bottom of the third.
With a three-run sixth, the Eagles expanded their lead to 9-3.
Merenda hit McNair with a pitch to open the inning. After stealing second base, Philipp ripped a run-scoring single to right field. Buxkemper followed with a single and Copper Nix lashed a two-run single to right field.
The Pirates weren’t through as they answered with three runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Merenda reached on an error before Casen Ewing singled. Carter Hooser followed with a run-scoring single and Ewing scored on Valley Mills’ second error of the inning. A wild throw by Buxkemper to first base scored Hooser to cut Valley Mills’ lead to 9-6.
With Degrate coming in to close the game for the Eagles, the Pirates loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh. Ewing blooped a run-scoring single to right field, but that was all the Pirates could get as Degrate struck out Carter Hooser to end the game.