By Will Johnson
TYLER – The Slocum Mustangs traveled to Mike Carter Stadium in Tyler, on Thursday, May 25, to take on the Union Hill Bulldogs in the first game of a best-of-three series. The series winner would advance to the state baseball tournament next week.
The contest was back-and-forth throughout and while the Mustangs outhit the Bulldogs and led heading into the bottom of the fifth inning, unfortunately, they fell by a final score of 8-7.
Slocum jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning thanks to the wildness of Union Hill pitcher Colton Wade.
Wade struck out Taylor Hunt to open the game and then hit Joe Byrnes with a pitch. Byrnes moved to second on Colton Peters’ single to right and took third on a wild pitch.
After Taylor Lomax flied out, Byrnes managed to scamper home on a passed ball to give the Mustangs the early lead.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as the Bulldogs plated three runs in the bottom half of the first to take a 3-1 lead.
Lomax was on the mound for Slocum and coaxed a ground out from Gabe Nelson to open the bottom half of the inning. Wade was next in the batting order and slapped a double into left. He was followed by Julian Williams who drew a walk to put runners on first and second with one out.
Two passed balls allowed Wade and Williams to score. Jakobe’ Griffis reached on an error and also came around to score after a second error and another passed ball.
After a walk to Colt Mallory, Lomax managed to right the ship, work his way out of a jam and record the third out to keep the score at 3-1.
The Mustangs shaved a run off the lead in the top of the second as Kyle Garman led off with a single and came around to score on a two-out triple from Hunt.
The Bulldogs managed to get the run back in their half of the inning after a lead-off double from Adam Kuza followed by two Mustang errors which allowed Kuza to cross the dish and make the score 4-2.
As the game moved into the third inning, the Mustangs mounted a comeback and tied things up at four. Peters singled up the middle and took third when Lomax reached first on a dropped third strike.
Andrew Abernathy drove in Peters with a sacrifice fly while Gage Horn came in as a courtesy runner for Lomax. Horn stole second, took third on the sac. fly and scored when Garman hit a grounder to short that was booted for an error.
Lomax worked an uneventful third inning and then turned things over to the Slocum offense in the top of the fourth. Joe Byrnes drew a two-out walk and scored on Peters’ double to left. Peters crossed the dish on a Lomax double and just like that the Mustangs led 6-4.
The bottom of the fourth was also uneventful for Lomax but when the Mustangs failed to take advantage of bases loaded situation in the top of the fifth, the Bulldogs pounced.
Griffis led off the fifth for Union Hill and reached on an infield single. Lomax forced Wade into a pop-up but Griffis took third on the next pitch due to a throwing error. A walk to Mallory put runners at the corners with one out but when Lomax hit Carl Fletcher with a pitch, the bases were loaded.
A wild pitch allowed Griffis to scamper home and moved the base runners up a base. A walk to Riley Griffith re-loaded the bases and when Nelson slapped a double into left, Mallory and Fletcher crossed the plate to make the score 7-6, in favor of Union Hill.
Peters came on in relief of Lomax and retired Wade on a ground out to send the game into the sixth inning.
The Mustangs fought back to tie the game in their half of the inning. Lomax hit a one-out double and moved to third on Dustin Fletcher’s single to center. Abernathy followed Fletcher to the plate and grounded out but on the play, Lomax was able to sprint home to tie the game at seven.
In the bottom of the sixth, Peters retired Williams on a 6-4 force for the first out. An outfield error allowed the next batter – Griffis – to reach second and move to third on a Wade ground out. A passed ball with two outs allowed Griffis to score and put Union Hill back on top and when the Mustangs could not answer with a run of their own in the top of the seventh, the Bulldogs won Game One of the series by a final of 8-7.
Slocum and Union Hill were back in action on Saturday, May 27 for Game Two but as of press time, the score was unavailable.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.