Getting superb pitching efforts from starter Braxton Smith and reliever Ryan Gunstream and picking up some timely hits, the Orangefield Bobcats snared the third-place playoff berth out of District 21-3A by downing the Buna Cougars 5-3 at Cougar Stadium Thursday night.
Smith got the win on the hill for the Bobcats (now 6-5 in 21-3A play). He worked five innings, allowing four hits while striking out five and walking three.
Gunstream tossed two innings of scoreless relief and allowed just one hit.
The Bobcats picked up seven hits off Buna pitchers Kolton Clark and Joe Clark.
Blake Permenter had two hits, including a two-run single while Luke Johnson had two hits, one a RBI double, and made a couple excellent plays at shortstop.
“I couldn’t be happier for our kids, they played their tails off,” said Bobcat coach Todd Trawhon. “We got excellent efforts on the mound by Braxton and Ryan and we played excellent on defense. We beat a really scrappy Buna team, we knew it was going to be tough to come in here and win but the kids got it done.”
The Bobcats now move on the face the Tarkington Longhorns, the District 22-3A runnerups, in the bidistrict round of the Class 3A Region III playoffs next week.
Buna (6-6 in 21-3A play) actually grabbed a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first.
Glenn Patrick had a leadoff single up the middle and reached second on a error. Joe Clark reached on an error and then Jacob Kelly reached on an error as a bad throw from third allowed Patrick to dart in to score.
The Bobcats snagged three runs off Buna starter Kolton Clark in the top half of the third.
Johnson got it going with an infield single then he swiped second and went to third on a wild pitch. Smith and Cody Angelle drew back-to-back walks to load up the bases.
With two outs, Permenter slapped a single that got past second base and rolled to centerfield as Johnson and Smith both raced home for a 2-1 Bobcat lead. Kurt Haggard drew a walk from Clark as the ball got away from him and courtesy runner Colby Choate scooted in to score.
“I’m glad to see our bats come alive because we’ve struggled the last couple games,” said Trawhon. “Blake gave us some momentum there by driving in those two runs. I couldn’t be happier for Luke. He really hit the ball well from the No. 9 spot and he made a superb play at short to get us out of trouble.”
The Bobcats tacked on a run in the top of the fourth.
Tryce Howard reached on an error and moved to second after a nice sacrifice bunt by Johnson. Eric Truncale reached on an infield single and Howard was able to dart in off a Cougar error.
That was it for Kolton Clark on the mound. He went 3 2/3 innings, allowing four hits while striking out five and walking five as Joe Clark replaced him.
Orangefield added some insurance in the top of the fifth.
Permenter stroked a leadoff single to left and Haggard reached on a fielder’s choice. With two outs, Johnson was able to plate Permenter with a sharp double to leftfield.
Joe Clark worked 3 1/3 innings for the Cougars, scattering three hits while striking out one.
The Cougars went down battling as they tallied two runs in the bottom of the fifth.
Ty Cleveland started it with a leadoff single to center. Patrick drew a one-out walk. Joe Clark brought home Cleveland with a RBI single up the middle and Patrick wound up scoring on a wild pitch to trim the margin to 5-3.
After Ryan Houston singled to open the bottom of the sixth, Gunstream replaced Smith on the Bobcat hill and the Orangefield defense rose to the occasion to record the last six outs on putouts.
The Bobcats will close out their regular season at home Friday night against Orange County rival Bridge City.