For all of its defensive shortcomings, Ryan still had a shot at picking up its first District 5-5A win on Friday night versus the visiting Hebron Hawks.
The Raiders committed six errors on the evening, yet mercifully trailed by two runs in the seventh inning with the bases loaded.
Hebron’s Jimmy Gallarda made sure none of those runs crossed the plate, retiring two of the three batters he faced to preserve the 6-4 victory.
Following the game, Ryan head coach Bret Warnack passionately spoke to his team as they sat near the ledge of the large, green batting cages in the foul territory near left field.
“We’ve gotta play better defense and we gotta have better at-bats,” Warnack said. “We’re just really passive at the plate. We gotta get more aggressive, we gotta start attacking people a little bit. We’re just playing with a passive attitude at the plate.”
Three nights after getting no-hit by Flower Mound Marcus’ Conner Dotson, Ryan’s bats perked up against Hebron right-hander Travis Stone. Junior designated hitter Mitchell Bridges led the Raiders’ attack by going 2-for-3 with a triple and a solo home run.
Stone led the Hawks (12-5, 1-1 district) at the plate as well, going 2-for-4 with a two-run homer in the fifth inning.
Ryan’s defensive mistakes cost it four unearned runs on the evening. Ryan sophomore shortstop Shomari Cann committed four of the team’s six errors.
“He’s a good player,” Warnack said of his young shortstop. “He’s a better player than that and those are plays that he can make. Just gotta keep working and get a little more consistent with it.”
Hebron jumped out to a 4-0 lead after scoring two runs in the second inning and two more in the fifth.
In the fifth, Stone stepped up to the plate and crushed a Watson pitch over the left-field wall. That was one of the few mistakes by Watson (1-2), who went the distance.
“Sam pitched a great ballgame for us tonight,” Warnack said. “That was the bright spot of the night. I thought he threw the ball really well and did a great job of keeping us in the game. We just didn’t play good enough defense behind him.
“We didn’t do a good enough job, in my opinion, at the plate. We either gotta do one or the other. We gotta play better defense to keep the score down, or we gotta start driving in some runs, one or the other.”
Bridges matched Stone’s home run with one of his own in the bottom of the sixth inning to keep Ryan (6-9, 0-2) within striking distance. With the wind blowing toward left field, Bridges turned on a pitch that kept Hebron left fielder Blake West backpedaling and searching for the ball in the air until he was impeded by the left-field wall.
The junior said the team must execute better and be ready to hit the ball at the plate but that Friday’s game was a step in the right direction.
“I think we showed a lot of improvement,” Bridges said. “We squared a lot of balls up, and I think we’ll eventually get there if we’re playing consistently on defense.”
In the seventh, a potential double play was botched and instead of at least two outs, Ryan had runners on first and second base. Stone (4-0) was pulled in favor of Gallarda, who surrendered a hit to Cann before striking out Ryan Burks and Cade Kennedy to end the game.
“I didn’t think we were getting tired on the mound, I just thought we weren’t catching some breaks here and there,” Hebron head coach Steve Stone said. “They squared up on the one home run, but besides that, there was some strange things [happening] on both sides.”
The Raiders won’t have to wait long to try to forget Friday night’s loss, as they face Rowlett at 1 p.m. today in a nondistrict matchup. The Raiders resume 5-5A play on Tuesday at Lewisville.
“We need to play,” Warnack said. “That’s our biggest thing. We need to play games, and we gotta go out and try to get better, starting [today].”
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
HEBRON 6, RYAN 4
WP — Travis Stone (4-0). LP — Sam Watson (1-2). S — Jimmy Gallarda (4). 3B — R: Mitchell Bridges. HR — H: Travis Stone. R: Mitchell Bridges.