By Will Johnson
GRAPELAND – The Latexo Tigers had shown promise early in the district season, especially given their 12-4 win over the defending Class 1A State Champion Slocum Mustangs and a 9-8 win over Neches.
That promise hit a roadblock on Friday, March 8, however, as the Tigers traveled to Grapeland for a game against the Sandies. Grapeland pitcher Josh “Bear” Ackley threw a two-hitter while the Sandies lineup scored every time they came to bat as Grapeland demolished Latexo by a final score of 17-0.
Ackley got off to a good start in the first despite issuing a lead-off walk to Eli Filer. When Filer attempted to steal, Grapeland catcher Cooper Sheridan gunned him down at second.
Kase Miller struck out swinging for the second out but then Matthew Wheeler lined a pitch into center for a base hit. That was as far as Wheeler would get, however, as two pitches later, Carter Catoe lined into a fielder’s choice at second to end the inning.
The Sandies wasted little time in cranking up the offense when they came in from the field. With Wheeler on the mound, Ackley led off with a single into left and then promptly stole second base. Justin Bobbitt followed with a shot past third to advance Ackley and then Austin Driskell slapped a liner into center field to plate Ackley, while Bobbitt moved to third.
Sheridan was up next and on the second pitch he faced, Driskell stole second to put runners at second and third with nobody out.
Wheeler buckled down, however, and caught Sheridan guessing at strike three. Blake Howard was up next and hit a slow roller to third. Bobbitt scored on the play, Driskell slid into third and Howard beat the throw to first as Grapeland took a 2-0 lead.
Next up was Gavin French who hit a fly to right that was just deep enough to allow Driskell to tag up at third and scamper home.
Cameron Navarette followed in the order, but once again Wheeler regained his composure and struck out Navarette on a 2-2 curve to end the inning.
With the score now 3-0, Ackley began to dominate. He got Sam Jones to swing at strike three while he caught John Lackey looking for two quick outs to start the top of the second.
Following the second out, Ackley got a little wild and hit Peyton Herrera with a pitch. He regrouped quickly, however, to force Clay Cook to fly out to right field to end the inning.
The Sandies continued to pound the ball when they came to bat in the bottom of the second. Jason Bobbitt drew a walk to lead-off and then Colten Franklin was hit by a pitch.
Ackley flew out to right but was followed by Justin Bobbitt who laced a single into left. Justin Bobbitt was running on the pitch and scored from second while Franklin advanced to third.
Driskell followed in the order and drove-in Franklin from third base while Bobbitt worked his way to third. Sheridan struck out but a wild pitch to Howard, who followed Sheridan in the order, allowed Bobbitt to score. Two pitches later, another wild pitch brought in Driskell to make the score 7-0.
Wheeler got Howard to ground out to end the inning but by then it was too late. Ackley struck out eight out of the next 11 batters he faced while the Sandies added a five-spot in both the fourth and fifth innings to run-rule the Tigers by a score of 17-0.
Ackley picked up the win in five innings. He threw 86 pitches, gave up two hits, zero runs, recorded 11 Ks and walked two. Austin Driskell led the way at the plate as he went 2-3 with three runs scored and five RBI.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].