Jirasek parks Tigers in regionals

Despite the series loss to rival Ducks, 22 wins this season is a school record
BY BILL MARTIN Reporter Sports Editor

Reporter/Ken Esten Cooke Rockdale catcher Joe Sanders tags out Taylor's Sam Jirasek in the second game of the team's quarterfinals series. Jirasek picked up the win in the finale. Reporter/Ken Esten Cooke Rockdale catcher Joe Sanders tags out Taylor's Sam Jirasek in the second game of the team's quarterfinals series. Jirasek picked up the win in the finale. TEMPLE—While Rockdale was rightly concerned about solving star Taylor pitcher Eric Brooks, it was his stand in who pulled down the curtain on the Tigers' season.

Stepping in for an injured Brooks and trailing 2-1, Sam Jirasek handcuffed the Tigers on two hits in a 6 1/3 inning relief job to end the Tigers' season 12-4 in the third and deciding game of the Class 3A Region III regional quarterfinals series Saturday afternoon at the Danny Scott Sports Complex in front of a rainsoaked overflow crowd.

Taylor took the series 2-5, 15- 5, 12-4.

The No. 5 ranked Ducks (26-6) now move on to face Carthage in the regional semifinals on Tuesday.

Taylor made it to the regional finals last season where it was denied a trip to the state tournament by district mate Hutto.

Rockdale ends the year at 22- 9. The win total is a new school record and marks just the third time a Tiger team has surpassed 20 victories.

Reporter/Bill Martin Rockdale catcher Nic Hammett congratulates pitcher Justin Elliott after the gem he pitched in game one to give the Tigers their only win in the regional quarterfinals series with the Taylor Ducks. Reporter/Bill Martin Rockdale catcher Nic Hammett congratulates pitcher Justin Elliott after the gem he pitched in game one to give the Tigers their only win in the regional quarterfinals series with the Taylor Ducks. "This was a tough one to let go," said Rockdale Coach Jarad Richards. "After game one we felt really confident in our chances to advance. Taylor's bats just caught fire at the right time, we couldn't get them out. There were a few errors and a few walks, but overall they just beat us with all those hits. You have to give them credit.

"It was a heck of a season and we had a blast. Of course we hate to see it end, but we aren't disappointed in our efforts. I'm so proud of the team and I will certainly miss all my seniors."

After a dramatic win Thursday night, the Tigers entered Saturday needing to secure just one victory to move into the next round.

Taylor outscored Rockdale 27-9 and outhit the Tigers 34-13 Saturday afternoon, including 20 hits in the Ducks' 15-5 run-rule win in the first contest.

"We wanted this to be a long day," said Taylor Coach Doug Kuhl. "It's unreal how we hit the ball. It takes pressure off you when you hit like that and boy did we hit the ball."

In the three-game series, the top of the Tigers batting order went 8-for-33 (.242) with five runs batted in.

In contrast, Duck catcher Dillon Pfluger was 5-for-9 with five RBI by himself Saturday. Jirasek was 6-for-7 with five RBI and was a home run away from hitting for the cycle in the first game.

Although he could not finish in the clincher because of a forearm injury, Brooks punished the Tigers at the plate, going 3-for-5 with five RBI in the last game.

Brooks was the winner in the first game Saturday and Kuhl pulled him after four innings and just 53 pitches in the blowout in anticipation of starting him in the finale.

But he struggled early in the first inning and was clearly having trouble with his right arm and was replaced by Jirasek after just six batters and sent to his second home in centerfield.

Perhaps Jirasek was looking to make amends with his performance on the mound, because it was partly due to him that the Tigers were able to walk away with a win in the first game.

His three errors at third base contributed largely to Rockdale's comeback.

Before Jirasek entered the contest with two outs in the first, Rockdale had rocked Brooks for two runs on a couple of singles from Drake and Hammett.

Rodriguez then greeted Jirasek with a single to right to score Chance Betchan and Joe Sanders who had walked and reached on an error to make it 4-1.

"We jumped out to an early lead after the first and I thought 'here we go, we got this,''' Richards said. "We had gotten their ace knocked out of the game, but we couldn't find enough hits to keep scoring with them."

The Ducks wasted little time in reta liat ing, post ing f ive runs in the top of the second after stringing together four straight hits—including a triple by Brooks—to regain the lead for good 6-4.

"Down 4-1 and your big stud just came out of the game pitching, you wonder if you can come back," Kuhl said. "That's the sign of a good team."

The final out of the third game was pretty typical of how things went for the Tigers on Saturday.

Hammett smoked a line drive to left field only to have Eric Comancho come up with a diving catch to end Hammett's career and the Tigers' season.

There was a 1 hour, 15 minute rain delay between the second and third games, but after whipping out 20 hits and 15 runs against five Tiger pitchers to win game two 15-5 in five innings, the rain did little to dampen the Ducks bats in the clincher.

Opener

Considered the fourth man in the Rockdale rotation, Justin Elliott pitched a gem at Taylor on Thursday night in game one, allowing just four hits and two walks in increasing his record to 3-1 on the season.

"I can't say enough about him," Richards said. "He just went out and pitched his heart out."

A poised Tiger batting order lifted Elliott's spirits after they headed into the top of the seventh trailing 2-1.

With two outs and the bases loaded, Taylor starter Jordan Stefek walked Hammett and Betchan who showed great discipline at the plate to force in two runs and push Rockdale ahead 3-2.

Cody Aldrete then replaced Stefek, but Schnerr chopped a high bouncer to the right side of the infield to score DeBault and Hammett to make the score 5-2, all with two outs.

Aldrete then got Sanders to foul out to finally end the inning after the Tigers sent nine batter to the plate.

In turn, Elliott retired the top of the Ducks order in order on three flyouts in the bottom of the seventh to seal the win.

TIGER TRACKS—Nic Hammet finishes his career with a school-record 94 runs batted in... At 6-4, 230, Hammett led the Tigers in stolen bases this season with eight... Hammett finished with 12 career wins as a pitcher and had a .385 career batting average... Chance Betchan finished with 48 RBI in 2009, just two short of Vincent Jiminez' school record of 50 set in 1997... Betchan finished with 79 in his career... Mark Drake was 10-2 in his career on the mound... The Tigers hit .335 as a team this season and outscored opponents by 85 runs... The Tigers scored 71 more runs this season than in 2008... The Tigers were forced to play without senior second baseman Chris Yanes in the finale after he pulled his quad in the second game and designated hitter J.B. Debault was pressed into action at second... The No. 1 ranked Class 3A school Cuero—which is coached by former Thorndale player and coach Scott Holder—was knocked out in the first round by Bellville... Cameron was knocked out of the playoffs in area round 13-3 by No. 4 Bridge City.

3rd game

Taylor 12, Rockdale 4 Taylor 153 002 1—12 14 1 Rockdale 400 000 0— 4 4 3

Pfluger and Brooks, Jirasek (1); Hammett and Drake, Gonzalez (3). W-Jirasek, L-Drake (7-1). 2B-Stefik, Brooks, Pfluger (T). 3B-Gonzalez (R), Brooks (T). Records—Rockdale 22-9, Taylor 26-6.

2nd game

Taylor 15, Rockdale 5 Taylor 104 73—15 20 1 Rockdale 011 03— 5 9 1

Pfluger and Brooks, Comancho (5), Aldrete (5), Rodriguez (5); Sanders, Hammett (4) and Hammett, Chelf (4), Gonzalez (4), Sanders (5), Gibbs (5). W-Brooks (11-1). L-Hammett (5-4). 2B-Debault (R), Pfluger, Jirasek, Stefek (T). 3B-Jirasek (T). HR-Pfluger (T).1

st game

Rockdale 5, Taylor 2 Rockdale 000 010 4—5 4 3 Taylor 010 001 0—2 4 3

Hammett and Elliott; Pfluger and Stefek, Aldrete (7). W-Elliott (3-1). L-Stefek. 2B-Betchan, Korenek (R).

FINAL BASEBALL STATISTICS

Hitting (at bats-hits-avg)— Betchan 37-85 .436; Drake 40-100 .400; Yanes 32-86 .372; Schnerr 34-94 .362; Hammett 31-87 .356; Debault 30-87 .345; Korenek 23-75 .307; Gonzalez 24-73 .328; Sanders 10-39 .256; Gibbs 10-45 .222; Chelf 2-21 .095; Elliott 4-27 .148; Castillo 0-6 .000; Faust 0-0 .000. Runs—Drake 44, Debault 32 Doubles—Hammett 12, Betchan 9 Triples—Debault 3, Drake 2 Home runs—Betchan 4, Schnerr 4 RBI—Betchan 44, Schnerr 31 Steals—Hammett 8, Drake 8 Pitching—Drake 7-1, 3.50; Gonzalez 4-3, 4.40; Hammett 5-4, 8.26; Chelf 1-0, 6.00; Elliott 3-1, 4.11; Gibbs 1-0, 0.00; Sanders 0-0, 31.50.


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The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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