Bulldogs earn a fifth trip to state tournament in the past six years with one game playoff win over No. 7 LaPryor

Thorndale to play in state semifinals Wednesday
Bill Martin, Reporter Sports Editor

The Thorndale baseball team will make its fifth state tournament appearance in the last six years when they take on Evadale in the Class A state semifinals at 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 9.The Thorndale baseball team will make its fifth state tournament appearance in the last six years when they take on Evadale in the Class A state semifinals at 1 p.m. Wednesday, June 9.    Thorndale was scheduled to play in the UIL state baseball tournament semifinals on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Dell Diamond and if the Bulldogs won, they would then play in the championship game on Thursday at 10 a.m. which is past the Reporter’s deadline. However, you can keep up with all the updated action on Rockdale Reporter.com and then of course a full report in next week’s paper.—BM

 SAN ANTONIO—With a bronze medal hanging in the dugout as inspiration—perhaps an albatross, perhaps a reminder—Thorndale is determined to trade up for gold as the Bulldogs head back to state.
 Behind another solid pitching performance from Paxton Jordan and an unlikely home run from nine hole hitter Tyler Miller, Thorndale will be making its fifth appearance at the state tournament in six years after dispensing of No. 7 LaPryor 8-2 in the Region IV finals at Burbank Stadium Friday night at the San Antonio Sports Complex. 
 The 24-11 Bulldogs will face 29-5 Evadale in one of two state semifinals Wednesday, June 9 at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock at 1 p.m. No. 3 Windthorst (34-6)—which knocked the Bulldogs out in the semifinals last year—will take on Stamford (23-8) in the first semifinal of the day at 10 a.m.
 The Bulldogs will be attempting to capture Thorndale’s eighth team state championship and third in baseball (1996, 2005).
 Thorndale and Windthorst are the only two teams back from last year’s state tournament.
 Evadale, ranked No. 9 in the state,  is a veteran ball club, very similar to Thorndale, with seven starters back.
 The Rebels have knocked off the No. 1 (Overton) and No. 2 (Cayuga) ranked teams on their march to Dell Diamond.
 “They can hit the ball,” said Thorndale Coach Kelly Kuhl, who scouted Evadale Saturday. “Their No. 2 pitcher reminds me of our No. 2 pitcher (Caleb Saunders). They are very similar to us.”
 The Rebels stood in the way of history over the weekend as their victory over Cayuga prevented the Wildcats from grabbing their third state championship in the school year, having already won titles in football and basketball.
 Evadale won a state title in 2000 in its last visit to Austin. It made one other appearance in 1993.
 The Rebels are led by junior first baseman Tyler Tucker who is hitting .449 with six home runs and 46 runs batted in. He is also 6-2 on the mound.
 “Last year, we were different because we had some people that didn’t want to play more baseball,” said Tucker, who was the district MVP last season as a sophomore. “But I think after we got to the fourth round and lost, we were disappointed. That made everyone say that we wanted to work hard and go to state.”

Clincher
 Thorndale opened the scoring in the LaPryor game by scoring three runs in the top of the fourth with the help of a two run double by Caleb Saunders. 
 LaPryor then answered back with two runs of their own in the bottom of the inning.  The tying run was at third base with one out, but Thorndale’s defense held strong behind the arm of ace Paxton Jordan. 
 Jordan struck out the next two LaPryor batters to line out to short stop and strike out looking to end the inning and threat.
 Jordan would strike out just five batters on the night, but one was huge in the bottom of the fifth. 
 LaPryor’s Emilio Salazar would open the inning with a double to left field and then stole third base. 
 With the tying run that close, Jordan would strike out Andrew Naraja looking on a full count pitch and get Israel Medina to fly to left field to close out the inning.
 “Early on, the hits weren’t there, but our defense carried us,” Kuhl said. “But we got better at the plate as the game went on.”
    LaPryor made three pitching changes on the night.  The big 6-3 ace Joe Guzman started the game, but gave up five runs in 5 1/3 innings before being moved to third base and replaced by Mike Martinez. 
 Martinez walked two batters and was immediately replaced by Cy Salazar.  Salazar hit a batter and walked another to open up the seventh inning and Guzman was put back at pitcher. 
 By this time Thorndale had mounted a 6-2 lead.  Guzman struck out five and walked six during his time on the mound.
 In he mean time, the junk-balling Jordan (9-2) cruised with his off speed offerings.
  “He relies more on his changeup,” Kuhl said of his ace. “He’s not going to leave the ball over the plate, he’s going to hit his spot.”
 Miller, hitting in the ninth spot, shot a solo home run over the left field fence in the top of the sixth that pushed the Bulldogs over the top. 
 “He does hit with some power,” Kuhl said, “that’s his fourth home run of the year. That’s what we want out of the ninth hitter. We feel good about having him there.”
 Josh Ware and pinch runner Sam Richter would also score in the Thorndale sixth on a wild pitch and a sacrifice fly, respectively.
 LaPryor would manage one base runner in the bottom of the seventh with one out, but Jordan would get Elias Rios and Naraja to fly out. 
 Josh Ware’s sliding catch in center field of Naraja’s hit would end the game and send Thorndale back to the Dell. 
 LaPryor ends its season at 24-7.
 “I would say that we have gotten stronger,” Kuhl said. “We didn’t play that well in the first playoff game against Shiner—nerves or whatever—but the way we have been going, it’s getting better every week.”

TOURNEY NOTES—In six previous appearances, Windthorst has yet to win a title... Stamford, which is located north of Abilene, is making its first appearance...Stamford is the only non-district champion to make it to state. It was runnerup to Hamlin in 8A...Tyler Jordan and Weston Fisher were on the roster four years ago as freshmen in Kuhl’s first team at state.

Region IV Finals
Thorndale 8, LaPryor 2
Thorndale        000 303 2—8 6 4
LaPryor           000 200 0—2 5 3
 Jordan and Jordan; Rios and Guzman, Martinez (3), Salazar (3), Guzman (7). W-Jordan 9-2. L-Guzman (13-3). 2B-Jordan, P., Saunders (T), Medina, Salazar (L). HR-Miller (4) (T). Records—Thorndale 24-11, LaPryor 24-7.

Who—Thorndale Bulldogs (23-11) vs. Evadale (29-5); Windthorst 34-6) vs. Stamford (23-8).
What—Class A State Tournament
When—Wednesday (semifinals at 10 a.m. & 1 p.m.); Thursday (finals at 2 p.m.).
Where—Dell Diamond, Round Rock
Regional finals—Thorndale defeated LaPryor 8-2; Evadale defeated Cayuga 6-5, 8-1; Windthorst def. Blue Ridge 407, 8-5, 8-2; Stamford def. Forsan 13-3, 6-4.
District—Thorndale was District 26A champion; Evadale was District 24A champion; Stamford was runnerup in District 8A; Windthorst was District 9A champion.
State tournament—Thorndale (1996, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009 2010); Evadale (1993, 2000, 2010); Windthorst (1979, 1980, 1983, 2002, 2003, 2009, 2010); Stamford (2010). (State titles in bold.)
Players to watch—Evadale-Tyler Tucker (.449 6HR 46RBI); Windthorst-Travis Wolf (.412, 12-3); Stamford-Hayden Nauert (.432, 6-1)


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