Slocum Defeats Fayetteville, 6-3, in Title Game
By Will Johnson
ROUND ROCK – The Slocum Mustangs are kings of the Class 1A baseball world after they defeated the Fayetteville Lions by a final score of 6-3 to capture their first ever state title in baseball.
The championship win followed on the heels of a heart-stopping semifinal victory over the New Home Leopards as the Mustangs won the game in their final at-bat by a score of 8-7.
In the title game, the Mustangs faced the Fayetteville Lions who were making a return trip to Class 1A finals after falling to the Abbott Panthers, 11-7, in the 2017 championship contest.
The Mustangs were the visiting team in Thursday’s game and wasted little time in jumping ahead of the Lions.
Taylor Hunt led off the game and was hit by a pitch from Lions’ starter Damon Gerick. Gerick also plunked Joe Byrnes who followed in the batting order. An errant pick-off attempt by Fayetteville allowed Hunt to move to third while Byrnes stole second to move into scoring position.
A wild pitch from Gerick brought in Hunt and sent Byrnes to third. Austin Sarraf was up next and he drew a walk from Gerick. Jacob Lane came in as a courtesy runner for Sarraf and when Taylor Lomax singled, Byrnes crossed the plate and Lane moved to third.
With the score 2-0 and no outs, Colton Peters grounded into a 6-3 force but picked up an RBI when Lane scampered home. Lomax moved to second on the play while a second wild pitch by Gerick sent him to third.
That was as far as he would get however, as Dustin Fletcher and Ben Haney both grounded out to retire the Slocum batting order.
Sarraf was on the mound for the Mustangs and he worked an easy bottom of the first. He struck out Gerick, forced Braden Rohde to ground out and then got Jerrette Brown to fly out to left to end the inning.
Gerick started off the second inning much better than the first, but his defense let him down. Randy Guess opened the inning with a strike out. Andrew Abernathy was up next and also struck out. On the third strike, however, the ball got away from the catcher and Abernathy was able to beat the throw to first.
Trevor Stewart came into run for Abernathy and after Hunt popped up for the second out, Byrnes moved him to third with a single to right. Another failed pick-off attempt gave Stewart the opportunity to score and sent Byrnes to third.
After Sarraf popped up to end the inning, the Lions tried to start chipping away at the 4-0 lead.
Reid Kubala lined out to short to lead off for Fayetteville, but Jacob Schley followed with a walk. Cole Mau was up next and got a single but was caught in a run down for the second out. On the play, Schley took third but Brenden Gilbreath grounded out to short to end the Fayetteville threat and send the game into the third inning.
In the third, the Mustangs tacked on another run to extend their lead to 5-0. Lomax popped up to second for the first out and then Gerick followed that up by hitting Peters who promptly stole second. After a wild pitch and a walk to Fletcher, Gerick was yanked and relieved by Brown.
The move caused the Lions to shuffle their lineup and after all the switching around, Brown caught Haney looking at a called third strike. However, Guess followed in the order with a single into left that allowed Peters to trot home with the Mustangs fifth run of the game.
Brown managed to get out of the inning when Hunt grounded out to second, although the Lions now faced a 5-0 deficit.
Fayetteville managed to cut into the Slocum lead in the bottom of the third as they scored a run to bring the score to 5-1. Lane Fritsch led off with a walk while teammate Lyle Muesse followed up with a K. Fritsch was thrown out at second when Gerick hit into a fielder’s choice.
It looked like Sarraf might have an easy inning, but an error in the outfield allowed Gerick to round the bases and slide home safely. Sarraf didn’t appear to be rattled, however, as he shook off the run to strike out Brown and end the inning.
The Mustangs went quietly in the top of the fourth as Burns lined out and Sarraf grounded out. Lomax was hit by a pitch, but Brown got Peters to fly out to retire the side with no damage.
The Lions, however, put a scare into Slocum when they came to bat in the bottom of the inning. Kubala led off and was hit by a Sarraf pitch while Schley followed with a walk. Mau was up next and grounded into a possible double play. Schley was out at second but on the play, a throwing error allowed Kubala the opportunity to cross the dish.
Gilbreath was up next and grounded into an out at second. Muesse followed with a walk and after Fritsch walked, Muesse singled into left to bring in Gilbreath and make the score 5-3.
Things looked bleak for the Mustangs as Sarraf walked Gerick to load the bases. Fortunately for Slocum, Sarraf was able to coax Rohde to foul out to end the inning with the Mustangs still up by two.
Slocum got one of the runs back in the top of the fifth to push their lead to 6-3. Fletcher led off with a walk and moved to second on Haney’s ground ball single. After Guess popped up for the first out, Abernathy hit a ball back to the mound which was booted for an error and loaded the bases for the Mustangs. Hunt was up next and drew a walk to push Fletcher across the plate.
With the bases still loaded and still only one out, the Lions caught a break as Byrnes hit into an inning ending 6-4-3 double play.
Fayetteville was unable to take advantage of the momentum the double play gave them when they came to bat in the bottom of the fifth.
Brown grounded out to first, Kubala struck out looking and Schley hit a dribbler back to the mound for a 1-3 force to send the game into the sixth inning.
The tension at Dell Diamond was beginning to build as the game moved into the final two innings. Sarraf led off the sixth with a single through the infield. Lomax followed with a fly ball out to right and then Fayetteville made another pitching change.
Schley came on in relief for Brown and as Peters settled into the batter’s box, Sarraf attempted to steal second. He was gunned down at the bag and Peters struck out to end the Slocum at-bat.
The Mustangs also made a pitching change in the sixth inning as they brought in Lomax to close out the game. Lomax had a rough outing in the state semifinal game, but he redeemed himself when it mattered most.
He forced Mau to ground out to second, coaxed Gilbreath to pop to second and jammed Fritsch who hit a ball that died in front of the plate allowing Abernathy to scoop it up and throw to first to end the inning.
In the seventh, the Mustangs hoped to pad their lead. It was not meant to be, however, as a Haney single was sandwiched between a Fletcher ground out and fly ball outs from both Guess and Abernathy.
With three outs standing between the Mustangs and their first state championship in baseball, Lomax slammed the door on any Fayetteville hopes of a comeback. First, he got Muesse to fly out to center and then got Gerick to ground out to short.
Finally, when Rohde hit a lazy ball to left, Byrnes was there to squeeze it for the final out as the Mustangs celebrated their first Class 1A State Championship in baseball.
Sarraf was credited with the win after he pitched five complete innings. He gave up three runs (one earned) on two hits, walked five and struck out four. Sarraf was also named as the MVP of the state tournament.
Lomax earned the save as he pitched two innings and did not allow a hit.
Gerick took the loss after he pitched 2.1 innings. He gave up five runs (four earned) on two hits, walked two, struck out two, threw three wild pitches and hit three batters.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PHOTOS BY BRIAN BOYD