FORT WORTH — After his team had staked him to a two-run lead before he even took the mound, Guyer’s new No. 2 starter had a small hiccup.
Junior Douglas Palmer, making just his third start since district play began after replacing freshman Connor Herriage as the No. 2 starter, walked Saginaw’s leadoff hitter in the bottom of the first and immediately drew a visit from head coach Johnny Kinzy, who gave him a rather stern message.
“You’ve got a two-run lead; you have to throw strikes,” Kinzy said. “I’m not saying he was lackadaisical there. He just had to refocus. He didn’t have his best stuff today, but he competed his tail off to put us in position to win.”
Palmer quickly rebounded and held the Rough Riders (17-15) to five hits as Guyer cruised to a 10-3 win in Game 2 of a best-of-three Class 4A bi-district series to earn a two-game sweep of Saginaw for the second consecutive year.
The Wildcats (17-13), the second seed from District 5-4A, will move on to face the team that eliminated them in the same round a year ago, as they’ll play a one-game playoff for the area championship against Cleburne, the second-ranked 4A team in the state. The game will be played at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Saginaw.
“It’s a great challenge,” Kinzy said. “It’s a really good baseball team. They’ve been the favorite in Region I all season, but what a great challenge for our guys.”
Palmer needed 101 pitches to finish the complete-game effort and improve his record since the start of district play to 2-1. The junior right-hander credited Guyer’s defense for playing an error-free game and his teammates’ bats for easing the pressure of his first postseason start.
A 5-2 Guyer lead quickly ballooned to a 10-2 rout in the top of the sixth after Palmer had allowed a leadoff home run to Tito Alegria in the bottom of the fourth. In the Guyer sixth, the Wildcats sent 10 batters to the plate, capitalized on two errors, scored on a wild pitch, strung together some timely hits and executed a double steal to score Brandon Hendricks, who finished with two RBIs and two stolen bases.
Once Guyer built the large lead, Palmer said, he felt comfortable on the mound.
“After that, it’s just about keeping the lead and doing your job,” Palmer said. “The most important thing is just to not change anything and just keep it all routine.”
Kinzy said he was happy with the way his team extended its lead late in the game and erased any doubt of the outcome.
“Any given day you can get beat,” Kinzy said. “I’m proud of the guys for staying extremely focused. It comes down to what got us here — pitchers throwing strikes and unbelievable defense behind them. We had some clutch hits again, too. We had two clean games.”
ADAM BOEDEKER can be reached at 940-566-6872 and via Twitter at @aboedeker.
Guyer 10, Saginaw 3
WP — Douglas Palmer. LP — Brandon Ventura. 2B — G: James Farris. S: Zach Tomblin, Tito Alegria. HR — S: Tito Alegria. Records — Guyer (17-13). Saginaw (17-15).