Stephenville sprints past El Paso Riverside to advance in playoffs
MIDLAND — El Paso Riverside's run through the playoffs ended the way so many baseball seasons do.
In a 6-0 Region I-4A semifinal loss in Game 2 to Stephenville that completed a Jackets' sweep, the Rangers ran straight into a masterful pitching performance and an opportunistic Stephenville offense that had them playing from behind all game.
The Jackets' Reece Elston threw a three-hitter while not allowing a ball out of the infield until the sixth inning and striking out eight with one walk. His offense staked him to an early lead to work with when it scored four early runs. Three of those four runs came with two-out hits.
That added up to the end of the deepest playoff run by an El Paso team in nine years.
What they said
"That's been their guy in the playoffs," coach Rick Solis said of Elston. "He's really good. We were talking, he looks like (Arizona Diamondbacks ace) Madison Bumgarner out there with his delivery. He did a great job shutting us down. We couldn't get a lot going against him.
"You just have to tip your cap to him at this point."
Riverside senior Diego Flores added: "He was one of the toughest pitchers we've seen but I feel like we could have done more."
How it went
Stephenville gave Elston all the runs he needed early. Case Dunavant had a bases-loaded infield single to drive in a first-inning run and the Jackets added three more in the second. Two of those three runs were driven in by back-to-back two-out singles from Charlie Hughes and Kyle Styron.
Riverside didn't have multiple baserunners until there were two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Derek Navarez broke up a no-hitter when he beat out an infield single, then Elston made his only mistake of the game when he threw low to first after fielding Fabian Gonzalez's comebacker.
That led to an error that gave Riverside runners on first and second with two outs, but Elston bounced back to strike out Jesus Sanchez.
Other than that, a normally potent Ranger offense found frustration against Elston. Two of their three hits were infield singles.
For Riverside, reliever Erin Aguilar held Stephenville to two runs after inheriting a 4-0 deficit with two outs in the second and also had the defensive play of the game in the fourth. Stephenville's Charlie Hughes tried to bunt a runner to third and popped it up.
Aguilar tripped as he ran toward the ball, but managed to turn that into a diving catch that led to an easy double play.
Riverside didn't commit an error.
The Rangers' one solid hit was a two-out double in the sixth from Diego Cardenas that was the first ball the Rangers hit out of the infield. Ethan Muniz then hit a long fly to deep right that was run down for the third out.
Riverside overcame an early 5-0 deficit, but eventually lost Game 1 to Stephenville 11-6 Friday night.
The Jackets had seven infield hits, including five bunt singles, and seven stolen bases. Four of those infield hits and two of the stolen bases were in a five-run first.
The Rangers rallied with three runs in the third on Diego Cardenas' three-run double and tied it with two unearned runs in the top of the fourth, but Stephenville answered with three runs in the bottom of the fourth and pulled away.
Stephenville plays Argyle for the Region I-4A championship at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Celina High School. Game 2 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Abilene Christian University. Game 3, if necessary, will be at 7 p.m. Friday at Celina High School.
For ticket information, visit the Jackets' Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Stephenville-HS-Yellowjacket-Honeybee-Athletics
Bret Bloomquist can be reached at 915-546-6359.