Four batters into the game, the storyline had been written before fans could put a dent in their bags of peanuts. Denton pitcher Josh Chavez couldn’t locate the strike zone, walking the first three batters before he was pulled in favor of Roman Arnold.
With the bases loaded, Lake Dallas’ TJ Sullivan looked at two pitches before hitting a grand slam to left field to give the Falcons a four-run buffer, helping them secure a 10-2 victory at Bronco Field to keep pace with Trophy Club Nelson for the final playoff berth out of District 5-4A.
For a Lake Dallas team coming off a lackluster offensive performance against Nelson in a 5-1 loss less than 24 hours earlier, a shakeup in the batting order and a more selective eye at the plate propelled the Falcons to double-digit runs and hits against the Broncos.
“We struggled offensively [Friday] night, and a lot of the players took some pitches [today] that we normally would have swung at that put us in the situation,” Lake Dallas coach John Tompkins said. “Sullivan ran into the ball and got it up in the wind and blew it out of here to get us on the board early.”
Falcons starter Michael Cox has had issues with locating pitches early in at-bats this season, but his location was on point against the aggressively swinging Broncos. He fanned nine in a complete-game effort while walking one.
“I felt pretty good,” Cox said after allowing two runs and six hits. “ I felt comfortable with my curveball and my fastball. All my pitches were working, and I was trying to get strike one off the bat. They are really aggressive early. [Sullivan’s grand slam] was a real big hit, and it took some pressure off.”
The Lake Dallas hitters drew 11 walks, with their entire lineup doing damage. Sullivan went 3-for-5 with two runs scored, and leadoff hitter Jackson Owens drew three walks and scored three runs. Joe Williamson went 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
The Falcons (12-8-2, 5-4 district) moved into a tie with Nelson for the final playoff spot. With just a handful of games remaining, Tompkins said he hopes the victory will springboard his team to a solid finish.
“I think we have to be very resilient and play as hard and as long as we can,” Tompkins said. “I’m a firm believer that if you respect the game, give back to it and play it the right way, that the game will reward you, so we just need to keep playing hard.”
The Broncos (7-14, 1-8) were coming off a tough 3-2 loss to Guyer the night before. Along with walks, passed balls and wild pitches, Denton coach Glen Harrison attributed the Broncos’ play to a lack of focus.
“When you walk the bases loaded, nothing good is ever going to come of that,” Harrison said. “That kind of set the stage for how it was going to be today. I think a lot of us were thinking about [Friday] night, and we didn’t get that behind us. We got behind early, and we’re not good enough to come back from that much of a deficit.”
Owens continued the Falcons’ hot start with a solo homer to start the second inning that gave Lake Dallas a 5-0 lead. After Christian Boulware doubled to the left field fence, he scored on a passed ball to make it 6-0.
Arnold, who was thrust into the game in the first inning after Chavez struggled, settled down in the middle innings while getting Denton on the board with an RBI groundout after Terrance Lucas posted the Broncos’ first hit with a double to left.
“I thought when Roman came in we did settle down,” Harrison said. “He did a good job throwing strikes, and we played a little defense behind him.”
The Falcons added a sacrifice fly by Williamson in the fourth inning to reclaim their six-run advantage at 7-1 and another one from Cox to make it 8-1 in the sixth.
The Broncos added a run in the sixth with Malik Minter’s RBI single to make it 8-2, but the Falcons kept churning out runs, adding two in the seventh.
The Broncos have six games remaining and will get back into action Tuesday when they play host to Wichita Falls. Harrison said the team isn’t looking ahead to next season.
“We have some seniors that are still getting after it, and I’m never going to prepare for next season if I have guys that are still playing hard every pitch,” Harrison said. “That’s what I tell the freshmen through the seniors. We’re still battling, and I want to finish the year strong, going a pitch at a time.”
Lake Dallas will travel to Wichita Falls Rider on Tuesday and district-leading Guyer on Friday.
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873.
LAKE DALLAS 10, DENTON 2
WP — Michael Cox. LP — Josh Chavez. 2B — L: Christian Boulware, Daniel Rivera. D: Terrance Lucas, Mark Johnson. HR — L: Jackson Owens, TJ Sullivan.