Cardinals corral Mustangs, 5-3
By Ronnie Hughes
WEST ORANGE — A week that was plagued by torrential rain and flooding that kept baseball fans guessing and hungry for crucial district games finally ended.
Friday finally brought some much needed sunshine to dry out the diamond to see the West Orange-Stark Mustangs play host to rival Bridge City Cardinals at Ronnie Anderson Field.
The Mustangs seemed to found their stroke early, but fell apart giving away a 3-1 lead in the sixth inning ,allowing the Cardinals to comeback and win, 5-3.
The win pushes the Cardinals to 7-2 in District 24-4A play, just a half game back of first-place Silsbee, while the Mustangs slipped to 6-3 and into third-place.
The Cardinals seemed to have an eye for Mustang pitcher Payton Robertson, early in the game as they were smashing deep fly balls deep into the outfield. Tod McDowell stepped to the plate in the top of the first inning with two out and no runners on the bags. McDowell sent a shot that could be heard across town over the left wall for an early 1-0 lead after the top of the inning. That was just the second Bridge City home run of the season.
The Mighty Stangs’ were not going to throw in the towel with their offense coming to the plate and answering the Cardinal call. Following a Chad Dallas fly-out that gave the Mustangs their second out of the inning, Jack Dallas took a free base after being hit by a pitch. The hard hitting Ryan Ragsdale, ripped a single into right field to score Jack and tie the game at one run apiece.
Blake Robinson ended the side with a strikeout from Cardinal pitcher Tanner Doiron. Ragsdale finished the night 2-for-4 with two RBI.
WO-S’ defense backed up their stellar offensive showing, putting down the Cardinals in order making quick work of the top of the second inning. The Stangs’ again attacked the plate in the bottom half of the inning with BB Tezeno leading off with a hard hit single and Kaleb Ramsey taking a free base on a walk. Unfortunately, both runners were left stranded with Holeman and Payton Robertson both striking out swinging to end the inning without scratching a run across the plate.
It was another easy inning for the Mustangs in the top of the third with the defense going one-two-three with Robertson striking out two of three batters and Tezeno making a diving catch in the outfield.
Chad Dallas led off the bottom of the third for the Mustangs with a small pop-up that was mishandled by Cardinal third baseman Austin Fitts, for a single. Jack Dallas got on base next, hitting into a fielders choice. Ragsdale kept the bats moving with rip-shot to third base and was able to outrun the throw to first base, putting runners in the corner for the Mustangs with just one out. Blake Robinson hit a sacrifice fly that scored Jack Dallas for a 2-1 Mustang lead after three complete innings. Jack scored two runs on the night.
The Cardinal bats struggled again in the fourth with Ragsdale playing exceptional defense for the Mustangs as he snagged two balls and gunned down the runner at first both times. Tre Bernard led off the bottom of the inning for Stangs’ with a single past short stop followed by a Ramsey slow roller to the pitcher that was mishandled and was unable to catch the runner at first. Robertson walked a couple batters later to load the bases with Chad Dallas slipping a shot past shortstop to score Bernard for the RBI single and another Mustang run. WO-S led 3-1 after four innings of play.
Robertson struck out three batters in the top of the fifth keeping the Cardinal batters frustrated along with moans from the crowd. The Cardinal defense finally stepped up and closed out the Mustang offense in order for the first time of the night.
Bridge City got the bats swinging again in the sixth with Kevin Gordon leading off with a shallow shot into left field. Caleb Dubois followed suit with a single to third base. Following a wild pitch from Robertson that allowed Gordon to scoot across home plate and cut the Mustang lead to just one run, the Stangs’ made a pitching change and brought Jack Dallas in to replace Robertson. Dallas struck out two of the next three batters, but the Mustang confidence still seemed rattled.
The Cards’ again shut down the Mustang batters in order in the bottom of the sixth inning as the Mustangs clung to a 3-2 lead heading into the seventh and final inning.
Justyn Romero led off the top of the seventh with a hard hit single with Rylee Harris following with a single of his own to put two runners on quick. Schuylar Thibodaux took a walk from Jack Dallas to load the bases for the Cardinals with the Mustang faithful grumbling as they looked on watching their Stangs’ collapse. Austin Fitts took a free base the next batter to bring across Romero and tie the game at three runs each. The Cardinals had no outs and bases load with Kevin Gordon coming to the plate. Gordon hit the game-winning shot just shallow enough to drop into right field and scored Harris and Thibodaux for a 5-3 with just a half inning left. Gordon went 2-for-4 with two runs scored on the night.
An attempted rally by the Mustangs in the bottom half fell short. Robertson singled after two quick Mustang outs with Tezeno taking a free base to put the tying run on the bags. After two consecutive balls to Bernard the Cardinals made a pitching change in hopes of not seeing their comeback evaporated. Tod McDowell took to the mound, but walked Bernard to load the bases with Kaleb Ramsey coming to the plate for the Mustangs. Ramsey took McDowell to a full-count and hit a chopper to second base for the final out of the game and crushing the hopes of Mustang fans that stood cheering in hopes taking back their lead that they let slip away.
The Cardinals and Mustangs will both be back in action today.
The Mustangs will visit Hamshire-Fannett at 5 pm. while the Cardinals will face Hardin-Jefferson in Jasper at 7 p.m.
In other 24-4A action Friday night, the first-place Silsbee Tigers improved to 8-2 in 24-4A play as they took a road win at Little Cypress-Mauriceville (3-6) 6-2.
LC-M will visit Hardin-Jefferson on Monday in Sour Lake.