Tigers force tie breaker with win
Employing a small bal l strategy, the Tigers disposed of Madisonville 9-3 at Tiger Ballpark.
Coupled with Taylor’s 12-3 loss to district co-champion Caldwell, the Tigers and Ducks will face off in a one- game showdown for the third playoff spot in District 18-3A in Thorndale Monday night at 7 p.m.
Both squads finished with 4-6 marks behind Caldwell (22-4) and College Station (24-6) which were 9-1 and co-champions.
Rockdale (16-12) and Taylor (14-15) split their district meetings, each winning at home.
The winner will take on Robinson in the first round of the playoffs.
Taylor has missed out on the playoffs the past two seasons.
“We live to play another week,” said Rockdale Coach Clay Cox. “Since Friday we have talked about coming out swinging with our backs against the wall. It took us awhile to settle in and find our groove, but when it came down to the wire, we took care of business”
The Tigers played their last two contests without their leader Ethan Brinkley.
Brinkley tore the PCL in his left knee last Tuesday chasing down a fly ball against College Station. The senior will not require surgery, but it will take a month for him to heal.
Brinkley was hitting .493 with 38 runs batted in and was 8-5 with a 1.88 earned run average on the mound.
In his final home appearance, Brinkley threw the first pitch before being replaced by Pearce Loth.
Trailing 4-3 entering the sixth inning, Rockdale erupted for six runs on the strength of five consecutive singles from Derek Whitsel, Hayden Offield, Pearce Loth, Nic Vreeland and Clayton Gibbs.
The Tigers accounted for five of the six runs with two outs.
Austin Caf fey was perfect at the plate, going 3-for-3 and swiping four bases. Madisonville respected Caffey enough to walk him intentionally in the sixth inning with two outs.
Whitsel, Offield and Gibbs all produced two hits each with Of f ield bringing home three runs.
Loth (5-3) took the complete game win, allowing seven hits and striking out seven
“Pearce took a little while to find his rhythm, but once he did he threw like he has been,” said Cox. “There has been a lot placed on him with Ethan’s injury and he has taken the challenge and stepped up.”
“These guys have faced a lot of adversity and they have grown tremendously since the first week of the season and that 0-5 start.,” Cox said. “Knocking on the door of the first back-to-back playoff berth in a long time, they are very deserving of it”
The Tigers suffered yet another one-run setback, 4-3 to No. 10 Caldwell on the road Friday.
It was the fourth one-run loss for the Tigers in league play and the fourth time Caldwell has pulled off the feat in the past two years.
Rockdale led 3-2 heading into the bottom of the seventh when the Hornets erupted for two runs to grab the victory.
“We struck out too many times Friday night, but despite that we still had a lead in the seventh,” said Cox. “There’s a reason Suehs is their ace. He kept them in the game the entire way. He doesn’t give up that many runs very often, so when he does you have to find a way to shut the door on them.”
Gibbs ripped a triple for the Tigers and bagged two runs batted in.
Offield (3-2), in his first action on the mound since March 7, absorbed the loss, allowing six hits and five walks while striking out three in seven innings.
He held Caldwell to six singles.
“ Hayden has thrown one inning since the Bishop tournament,” Cox said. “With Ethan going down he was thrown into a tough situation. I couldn’t be more proud of how he stepped up to the challenge. It’s a lot to ask of the guy and he went out and battled toe to toe with one of the best teams in the state”
In the three- run four th, Whitsel lead off with a bunt single and Offield walked.
Gibbs hit a liner to left that got by a diving left fielder for his two-run triple.
Next pitch Ehler ripped an RBI single up the middle for a 3-2 lead.
Caldwell used three hit batsmen to score the winning runs.
TIGER TRACKS—Austin Caffey threw out an impressive five base runners against College Station... Tigers have 117 stolen bases on the year... In the past two years Rockdale is 5-1 in elimination games, dating back to last year in the regular season... Collected another $475 for the West fund Tuesday night by passing the hat.