MANSFIELD — Ponder had a sweep in sight Saturday in a Class 2A bi-district playoff series at Mansfield Lake Ridge, but Whitney scored four runs in the seventh to win 8-7. With the series tied at a game apiece, the Lions recovered for a 20-1 victory and advanced to an area-round matchup with Pottsboro.
“It was a little frustrating because [Ponder pitcher Josh Peterson] was still throwing strikes and still hitting his spots,” Lions coach Mark Low said. “We let a couple balls drop in the outfield that changed the outcome of the game. I knew that [Micah] Broadstreet would throw strikes in Game 3. I knew that we would keep hitting; we hit the whole series. This group of kids is pretty even-keel on stuff.”
The Lions (16-12) didn’t sulk on the Game 2 loss for long, as their offense got back on track with two runs in the first inning of the finale. Keaton Malcom hit an RBI single and Austin Hayden a sacrifice fly.
Whitney (13-12) fought back with an RBI triple by Cash Callahan in the second inning to make it 2-1, but that was the only run it could muster off Broadstreet.
“The big thing was we got the two runs and we only gave them one in the bottom half of the inning,” Low said. “We only gave them one and we stayed ahead of them. ... It puts a lot of pressure on the other team.”
Malcom added his second RBI single of the game in the third to put Ponder up 3-1, and Ethan Easterling sent an RBI single to right to make it 4-1.
In the fourth, the Lions delivered a crippling blow, scoring 10 runs and forcing starter Brett Gilchrist from the game after he allowed the first six runs of the inning.
Austin Leveridge, Broadstreet and Kade Copp reached base to start the inning, and Peterson’s single made the score 5-1.
Dylan Nichelson’s single drove in two runs to make it 7-1. Reid Sanders’ two-run single to right center made it 10-1, and relief pitcher Dustin Poteet entered the game for Whitney. Broadstreet hit an RBI single, and Copp delivered a two-run double to put Ponder up 13-1. Nichelson added an RBI double.
“Everybody hit it in Game 3,” Low said. “Everybody that got up got a hit. We were a little worried about Easterling because he was sick and had to come out of the game [Friday], and we didn’t know if he would play today. Then he didn’t make an out in every at-bat. The kid has played really good.”
The Lions added six runs in the fifth with two-run doubles by Sanders and Peterson, a sacrifice fly by Broadstreet and an RBI single from Nichelson.
The game ended in five innings on the run rule.
In Game 2, Callahan’s RBI single up the middle put the Wildcats up 1-0 in the first inning.
The Lions evened the score at 1 in the bottom half as Nichelson worked a leadoff walk, advanced to third on an error and scored on Easterling’s single.
The runs kept coming for both teams, and Whitney added two in the second.
“Peterson pitched a great game the first game and he was in the zone a lot,” Low said. “The first game was a little weird because it seemed like we were ahead more than we were the whole time.”
Ponder answered with three runs in the bottom of the second. Leveridge scored on Copp’s single. Copp and Nichelson scored on back-to-back RBI singles by Malcom and Easterling as Ponder took a 4-3 lead.
Gilchrist hit an opposite-field home run in the third to tie the game at 4, but the Lions responded with Copp’s sacrifice putting Ponder on top at 5-4. Peterson then singled to drive in Broadstreet.
The Wildcats scored a run in the fourth inning, but the Lions responded with a two-out RBI single from Nichelson to make it 7-5.
After the Lions failed to score with the bases loaded and no outs in the sixth, Whitney rallied with four runs in the top of the seventh. Josh Ince and Ashton Leech singled, and a blooper to right pulled the Wildcats to within 7-6. Gilchrist singled to load the bases, and Callahan hit a two-run single into center field to put Whitney ahead.
The Lions threatened to tie in the bottom half with two on, but Leech, who came in for starter Fisher Hennig, got Malcom to ground out and struck out Sanders to end the game.
“The biggest problem in the first game was that we had the bases loaded with nobody out in the sixth and we didn’t score,” Low said. “If we just get two runs there, it changes the whole outlook of the game and they probably don’t think they have a chance.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873.
Whitney 8, Ponder 7
Whitney 121 100 4 — 8 11 5
Ponder 132 010 0 — 7 11 1
WP — Fisher Hennig. LP — Josh Peterson. 3B — W: Dustin Poteet. HR — W: Brett Gilcrhest.
Ponder 20, Whitney 1
Ponder 202 (10)6 — 20 18 0
Whitney 100 00 — 1 1 4
WP — Micah Broadstreet. LP — Brett Gilchrist. 2B — P:
Kade Copp, Dylan Nichelson, Reid Sanders, Josh Peterson. 3B — Cash Callahan