The way things started for Ryan on Tuesday night, things didn’t look promising at home against Denton.
The Raiders booted grounders, fumbled fly balls and committed five errors against their crosstown rival and the district’s last-place team.
But three straight hits in the sixth inning absolved all of Ryan’s defensive shortcomings — pardoning sins that typically cost teams close games.
Ryan scored three runs in the sixth to slide past Denton 4-2 in the last Class 4A meeting between the two schools before realignment. Ryan is moving up to Class 5A next season.
“We were very lucky to win, going out and making five errors right there,” Ryan head coach Bret Warnack said.
Ryan, 8-2 in District 4-4A, maintained its slim lead over second-place Wichita Falls, which moved in behind Ryan with its victory over Lake Dallas on Tuesday night.
Already eliminated from playoff contention, Denton (9-14, 1-9) remains at the bottom of the standings after losing its eighth straight district game.
Brandon Taylor went 2-for-3 to lead Ryan at the plate, while Drake Aiken paced the Broncos with a 2-for-4 performance.
Ryan’s Tanner Whitlock and James Marshall led off the bottom of the sixth inning with back-to-back singles. Chris McKeehan then stepped up to the plate and smacked a double into the right-center field gap, putting the Raiders up by one run.
After McKeehan’s double, Zach Litchen (2-2) walked toward the visitors’ dugout and flipped the ball to Denton head coach Glen Harrison. Zach Wilson, who started the night at first base, finished out the inning.
McKeehan (7-1) picked up the victory, pitching 6 1/3 innings without giving up an earned run.
Warnack called upon Marshall to pick up the final two outs of the game as the Broncos were on the verge of a last-ditch rally.
With runners on second and third, Marshall got Nick Carrell to strike out swinging on a full count to end the game.
Denton scored both of its runs in the second inning but couldn’t get anything else going against McKeehan. Both runs scored because of errors by Ryan outfielders.
Throughout its losing streak, Denton has come up just short on multiple occasions. Harrison said his team has lost about seven or eight one-run games this season.
“When you play enough close games like that, we’re going to have to find a way to get over the hump,” Harrison said. “It becomes a mental thing. Until we get over the mental part of it, that’s the difference between a good team and a championship team.”
Ryan’s victory sets up a huge showdown at Wichita Falls on Friday. With two games left in the season, a win would seal the 4-4A championship for the Raiders. A loss would put the two teams into a tie for the top spot.
BEN BABY can be reached at 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
RYAN 4, DENTON 2
WP — Chris McKeehan (7-1). LP — Zach Litchen. S — James Marshall. 2B — R: Chris McKeehan.