Tigers Fall in State Finals, 6-4
By Will Johnson
ROUND ROCK – The Kennard Tigers’ magical baseball season came to a close on Thursday morning as they fell to the Fayetteville Lions, 6-4, in the UIL Class 1A State Finals held at Dell Diamond in Round Rock.
The Tigers fell behind early in the contest but chipped away at the Lions’ lead throughout the game. A seventh-inning rally by Kennard made some Fayetteville fans visibly nervous, but in the end, a four-run deficit was simply too much to overcome as the Lions held on to hoist the State Championship Trophy.
Jaden Kulms was on the mound for Kennard to open the game and after he got Keegan Supak to tap back to the mound for a quick out, he ran into a jam. Reid Gross and Travis Gully drew back-to-back walks. Logan Fritsch was up next and he hit a deep fly ball which was misplayed in the outfield.
Gross and Gully were able round the bases and cross the plate to make the score 2-0, while Fritsch took third on the throw in from the outfield. Karson Corn came in as a courtesy runner for Fritsch and after Parker Vitek fanned, Jake Kubala knocked in Corn with a single through the right side of the infield.
With Aiden Wicke now at the plate, Kubala stole second. Wicke eventually drew a walk from Kulms, but just when it looked like it might get ugly, Kulms got Cooper Mau to tap back to the mound for a 1-3 force at first.
The Tigers looked stunned when they came in from the field, but quickly shook it off as they clawed back a run in their at-bat.
Kulms led off for the Tigers and singled up the middle. Keyton Lumbreraz was up next and flew out to shallow center. Dylan Cole followed in the batting order and with Cole at the plate, Kulms stole second while a balk move him to third.
Two pitches later, Cole ripped a single into right, allowing Kulms to trot home and cut the score to 3-1. Ryan Pilkington was up next in the batting order, but flew out right. Jacob Catoe followed Pilkington in the order and shortly after he settled into the batter’s box, Cole swiped second. That was as far as he would get, however, as Catoe fanned to bring the first inning to a close.
The second inning got off to a rough start for the Tigers as Landon Urban reached on an error and then stole second.
Supak was up again as the top of the Fayetteville batting order rolled around, but the Lions’ pitcher popped up to second base. Gross followed in the order and hit a little squibber to the right of the mound. Kulms pounced off the mound, fielded the ball and fired to first to nip Gross by a step for the second out of the inning.
On the play, Urban moved to third and was joined on the base paths by Gully when he was hit by a pitch. With Fritsch in the batter’s box, Fayetteville executed a double steal.
Gully broke for second, but the Tigers also had a play on. Catoe fired to Cole who came in behind the mound. Urban took off for home as Cole threw a dart to Catoe at the plate. It appeared Urban was out, but was called safe as the Lions pushed their lead to 4-1.
That was all Fayetteville would get, however, as Kulms forced Fritsch to ground out to short to end the top of the frame.
Kennard was unable to get anything going in their half of the inning as Caleb Alfred grounded into a 6-3 force at first while Cade Collinsworth struck out. Adrian Montero followed with a single to left center but was stranded there when Elijah Dowdy struck out on a nasty breaking ball from Supak.
The Lions threatened once again in the third, but the Tigers defense stepped up.
Vitek led off the inning with a double down the line in left and moved to third when Kubala grounded out to second.
Wicke followed in the order and attempted to lay down a bunt. Once again, Kulms was able to field the ball from his pitcher’s spot and threw home to Catoe who tagged out Vitek at the plate. Mau was next in the batting order but fanned on four pitches to bring the Tigers in from the field.
The Tigers also threatened in the third, but just like Kennard, the Fayetteville defense rose to the occasion. Kulms led off the bottom of the third with a pop-up to short while Lumbreraz followed with a strike out. Cole was up next and hit a little looper that glanced off the glove of a Lion infielder.
Cole managed to take second on the play and moved to third on a wild pitch. That brought Pilkington to the plate and the Kennard first baseman hit a shot deep in the hole at short. Gully – the Fayetteville shortstop – played it to perfection as he was able to back hand the ball and throw a laser to first to nip Pilkington by a half-step.
In the fourth inning, the Lions tacked on a run as they extended their lead to 5-1. Urban led off the frame with a walk and moved to third when Supak singled through the left side of the infield. With runners at the corners, and nobody out, Supak tried to steal second but was picked off by Kulms.
Gross was up next and drew a walk. With Urban on third and Gross on first, the Lions attempted another double steal. It didn’t work this time, however, as Urban was gunned down at the plate while Gross motored into second.
A single to center plated Gross and pushed the Fayetteville margin to 5-1. Fortunately, Kulms was able to force Fritsch to pop up to center to end the Lions’ threat.
Supak stymied the Tigers when they came to bat in the bottom of the fourth. Catoe popped up to Supak to lead things off and then Alfred drew a walk. He wouldn’t get any farther though as Collinsworth flew out to left while Montero fanned to bring the fourth inning to a close.
A quiet fifth inning gave way to the sixth as the nerves began to take hold. Kulms was still on the mound to open the inning and got two quick outs as Urban grounded out to second while Supak popped up to short.
After Gross drew a walk, Kennard Head Coach Corey Carden brought in Lumbreraz to help close out the game and moved Kulms to third. A walk to Gully and a balk with Fritsch at the plate moved the runners to second and third.
With runners in scoring position, Fritsch grounded to Kulms at third. Kulms fielded the ball cleanly and looked to fire to first. Gully, however, had a running start towards third and when Kulms caught Gully out of the corner of his eye, he made a heads up play to tag Gully before Gross could cross the plate, which ended the inning and brought the Tigers up to bat.
Down to their final six outs, the Tigers trimmed a run off the Fayetteville lead in the bottom of the sixth. Cole led off with a ground out to short but Pilkington followed with a walk. Catoe was up next and singled to left. Alfred followed with a single to center and with only one out the bases were juiced.
Collinsworth followed in the batting order and grounded into a fielder’s choice at third. On the play, however, Pilkington scampered home while Alfred moved to second. That was all the Tigers could muster, unfortunately, as Montero fanned to send the game into the final inning of play with the score now 5-2.
Fayetteville recouped the run they had given up in the previous inning during the top of the seventh. Vitek fouled out to lead off the inning while Kubala walked. Wicke fanned for the second out but Christian Alaniz drew a walk, moving Kubala to second.
Urban was up next and hit a slow roller to short. Cole made a good play on the ball but couldn’t quite get enough on his throw to catch Urban at first. A wild pitch brought in Kubala and once again, the Lions were up by four, 6-2.
An intentional walk to Supak loaded the bases, but Lumbreraz was able to get Gross to fly out to Okoye Smotherman in center field for the final out of the inning.
With their backs against the wall, the Tigers would not go quietly. Dowdy led off with a single past short and that was all she wrote for Supak, who was relieved by Gully.
The first batter Gully faced was Kulms who greeted the new pitcher with a double to the gap in center, moving Dowdy to third.
Lumbreraz followed with an infield single which brought in Dowdy from third and made the score 6-3. On the play, Kulms moved to third and when Cole flew out to right in his next at-bat, Kulms tagged up at third and then sprinted home to make it 6-4.
With Pilkington up next, Lumbreraz stole second and moved to third on a throwing error. That was as far as he would get, however, as Pilkington and Catoe both fanned to end the game and hand the State Championship to the Fayetteville Lions, 6-4.
Supak was credited with the win after going six innings and giving up three runs on six hits. He also struck out six and walked two. Gully came on in relief for one inning and gave up one run on two hits. He also struck out two.
Kulms was saddled with the loss after going 5.2 innings and giving up five runs (only one earned) on five hits. He also struck out five and walked six. Keyton Lumbreraz came on in relief for Kulms and gave up one run on one hit. He also walked four and struck out one.
At the plate, the Tigers were led by Kulms, who was 2-4 with two runs scored. Dylan Cole was also 1-3 with two RBI while Elijah Dowdy was 1-3 with a run scored.
The Lions were led by Travis Gully who was 1-1 with an RBI and a run scored. Jake Kubala was 1-3 with an RBI and a run scored while Landon Urban was 1-3 with a run scored.
Keagan Supak was named as the Class 1A Tournament MVP.
After the medal presentation, Coach Carden spoke about the game and his team.
“The first inning really hurt us, but our guys fought back,” he said. “When you’re down 4-1 throughout the entire game and then getting down 5-1, before cutting the lead to two with a almost a chance to win the game – that’s resiliency right there.”
Carden said his team would be returning eight players next year and this year’s team was sort of a tribute to last year’s team who was unable to play because of COVID-19.
“Kennard baseball is in good hands. We are returning eight players next year with four pitchers. I’m very proud of what’s coming next year and in-the-years to come,” he said.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at email@example.com.