Already down a game after losing the opener 3-0 in the three-game series, the Tigers employed clutch hitting and rallied for 7-6 and 13-8 wins to capture the bi-district round and send Sealy packing.
The resurgent Tigers will now battle the No. 2 ranked Bridge City Cardinals (22-2) in a three game area series beginning Friday in New Caney.
The first game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, followed by the second game at noon on Saturday. If necessary, a third game will follow 30 minutes after the conclusion of the second.
The winner will face the Caldwell (15-9)-Huffman-Hargrave (17-9) winner in the quarterfinal round.
“At this point in time there are 127 Class 3A programs in the state of Texas sitting at home,” said Rockdale Coach Clay Cox. “We are one of the fortunate 64 that are left. All year long we have
Who—Rockdale Tigers (20-12) vs. No. 2 Bridge City Cardinals (22-2). What—Class 3A, Region III, Area playoff. When—1st game, Friday at 6 p.m.; 2nd game, Saturday at Noon; and 3rd game Saturday, 30 minutes following game 2 if needed. Where—New Caney Porter High School District—Rockdale finished third at 4-6 in 23-3A; Bridge City was unbeaten 21-3A champion. Last playoff appearance— Rockdale 2009; Bridge City 2011. Last week—Rockdale def. Sealy 2-1; Bridge City had a bye. Cardinal to watch—C/P Baylor signee Matt Menard.
just preached get in the playoffs and it is anyone’s game, and that is the approach we will continue to take.”
The Cardinals have not lost since Feb. 24 to Little Cypress Mauriceville and their other loss came in the season opener.
Bridge City possesses superb pitching, having allowed just nine runs in 10 district games, including five shutouts.
In the past six years, the Cardinals have averaged 25 wins per season and returned seven starters from last year’s 21-12 regional semifinalist team. They have reached the semifinals the past three seasons.
They’re led by Baylor signee Matt Menard, who splits time between home plate and the pitching rubber and was the district MVP last season.
The Cardinals captured their 21st district championship this season, their 10th since 2001.
Rockdale is on a roll of its own, having won five of its last and has scored in double-digits in four of the past six games, including the 13-8 series clincher against Sealy Saturday afternoon.
Rockdale stands 20-12 on the season, marking just the fourth time in school history a team has reached that plateau.
“Once again we came out blazing on offense,” said Cox. “A few errors late in the game allowed them to get it back w ithin a couple of runs, but they had one or two miscues and we took advantage of them.”
The Tigers came out with bats blazing after surrendering a run in the top of the first.
In the bottom of the inning, Sealy starter Carlton Fogle plunked Duke Schneider and Ethan Brinkley in order and after Ty Kirk singled and Schneider scored on a wild pitch, Cody Skubal made him pay, clubbing a double to make it 3-1.
Rockdale tacked on three runs in the third after Zach Garza reached on a fielder’s choice, Austin Caffey walked and Clayton Gibbs singled to score Garza.
Schneider cleared the bases, ripping a two-run triple to plate Caffey and Gibbs for a 7-1 lead.
Tiger starter Gibbs— who pitched 1 2/3 innings Friday night—cruised through the first four innings, but Sealy caught up with him in the fifth, crossing the plate four times to pull the Tigers to within 8-5 after Rockdale left the bases loaded in the fourth.
However, every time Sealy got close, the Tigers made up the difference.
After they gave up the four in the fifth, they got back two in the bottom of the inning when Schneider walked and Brinkley singled to be driven home by Stewart’s double to center.
When Sealy closed to 10-8 in the sixth, the Tigers posted three runs of their own as Garza and Caffey scored ahead of Gibbs whose single was misplayed and allowed him to round the bases and score for a 13-8 lead.
The sophomore Gibbs (3-2)— who was the winning pitcher in both series wins—was replaced by Schneider in the fifth who closed out the game, but not before allowing three runs in the sixth.
In the seventh, Schneider started the Rockdale celebration by striking out the first two batters and then recorded the final out on Kirk’s unassisted out at first.
The Tigers cracked 14 hits, with Gibbs, Schneider, Stewart and Skubal each accounting for two hits and two runs batted in apiece.
Sealy countered with 12 hits, led by Seth Hill’s 4-for-4 showing at the plate. Hill was 7-for-8 in the final two games.
“All year long we have said if we can just get to game three of a series we can compete with anyone,” Cox said. “Sealy had trouble finding guys to throw strikes and we didn’t. Clayton came back and got another win and Duke threw two great innings to get the save
In a see-saw affair, Gibbs’ triple in the top of the seventh after an error by Sealy shortstop Zach Wills on Stewart’s grounder pushed Rockdale ahead for good 7-6.
In relief of starter Brinkley, Gibbs retired the side in the bottom of the seventh to close out the game.
Just as they did in the finale, the Tigers crossed the plate four times in the first, the big blow, Skubal’s triple into the left field corner to score Kirk and Gibbs.
Stewart and Kirk singled to account for the first two runs.
The Tigers were at it again in the second as Kirk singled in Caffey and Dylan McCartney.
Sealy pulled within 6-2 in the bottom of the second on four singles.
Sealy knotted the game at 6 in the sixth, using two infield singles and a Tiger error.
Kirk logged two singles and three runs batted in to lead the Tigers.
“ Thursday night we talked about having our backs against the wall and coming out swinging,” Cox said. “That is exactly what we did, scoring six runs in the first two innings.
“Ethan did a great job through five, and Clayton came in to finish it up,” said Cox. “Clayton had a great night. He came in and got the win on the mound as well as coming up in the clutch with an RBI triple in the top of the seventh to take the lead”
In a true pitcher’s duel, Sealy’s Seth Hill kept the Tigers off the basepaths in the 3-0 victory.
Rockdale’s ace Tate Pounders was up to the task, but had no offensive support.
Pounders (6-2) allowed just two hits and two earned runs on the evening, while striking out six.
“Thursday was what you expect out of two aces,” Cox said. “A pitchers duel. Both teams had just two hits a piece. They managed a way to get to the plate with what few runners they had and we didn’t.
“Hill threw an outstanding game and managed to keep us off balance. You have to tip your cap to him. He managed to find a way to silence our bats.”
Rockdale came into the series having scored 44 runs in its last three games.
“This group was not going to be denied. Sometimes losing that first game kind of gives you the wake up call you need”
Rockdale 13, Sealy 8
Rockdale 7, Sealy 6
|Rockdale||420 000||1—7||6 1|
|Sealy||040 002||0—||6||11 3|
|2B-||Terrell (||S).||3B-Skubal,||Gibbs (R),|
|Sealy||100 020||0—||3 5 2|
|Rockdale||000 000||0—||0 1 1|
HITTING—Brinkley 35-87 .402; Stewart 30-87 .346; Ehler 17-60 .340; Kirk 26-77 .338; Schneider 16-51 .314; Skubal 27-79 .342; Pounders 23-77 .299; Gibbs 27-90 .300; Garza 12- 52 .231; Caffey 16 -72 .222; McCartney 6-22 .273. Runs—Brinkley 28, Gibbs 26 RBI—Brinkley 23, Stewart 22 2B—Kirk 7, Brinkley 6 3B—Gibbs 3, Stewart 3 HR—Skubal 2, Stewart 1 SB—Gibbs 12, Brinkley 11 Pitching—Pounders 6- 2 3.39; Brinkley 4-1 3.07; Skubal 2-1 5.68; Schneider 2-3 6.43; Stewart 2-2 5.21; Gibbs 3-2 3.27; Loth 1-0, 0.00. Offield 0-1 54.00