Texarkana College back in baseball race
By Johnny Green
By Johnny Green
Texarkana College’s sweep of last-place Lon Morris College last Wednesday likely didn’t raise many eyebrows among its Region XIV rivals. But Saturday’s twin wins over East Conference leader Panola College no doubt opened some eyes.
The Bulldogs’ 5-4, 8-6 twin wins at George Dobson Field—the first game in extra innings—pulled Texarkana within a half-game of the Ponies in the conference race, and magnified the advantage TC has in playing all but two of its remaining games at home, where it has lost only once all season.
And Saturday’s sweep over the nationally 10th-ranked Ponies showed the Bulldogs have to be considered a candidate for the league title.
“The thing about Panola is they make you beat them,” said Bulldogs coach Will Bolt. “They make all the plays defensively, and they don’t give you anything. They made us beat them and we did.”
And in a way that should boost the team’s confidence for coming game. Two clutch RBI hits by Thomas Watson sparked the come-from-behind win in the opener, and four sixth-inning runs in the nightcap enabled the Bulldogs to withstand a 3-run rally by Panola in the seventh.
The second game is usually nine innings, but by conference rule, is changed to seven if the opener is extra innings.
Blanked on three hits through five innings by Panola ace Aaron Wilkerson (7-0, 1.91 ERA), Texarkana (26-10, 10-5) cut the visitors’ 4-0 lead in half when Joaquin Hinojosa followed a leadoff walk to Austin Atwell with his seventh home run to left-center.
David Allday and Jordy Snikeris added singles, ending Wilkerson’s day. But reliever Travis Reagan uncorked a wild pitch, setting up Watson’s base hit to left, tying the game.
After TC closer Hinojoso wiggled out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the top of the eighth with a 4-6-3 double play, the Bulldogs followed suit when right-hander Tim Emmott walked two batters and hit another in the bottom of the inning. Panola went to its fourth pitcher, Cory Thomas, but Watson drilled his first pitch just inside the third-base bag to drive in Allday with the game-winner.
“I always look for a fastball away on the first pitch,” said Watson, a sophomore. “That way I can adjust to an inside pitch, and on a breaking ball I’m already sitting back because I’m looking for the outside fastball. The first time I hit a fastball, and the second time a breaking ball.”
Panola (28-9, 11-5) built its early lead with the long ball, Matt Juengel belting a first-inning solo shot and former Hooks High School standout Brandon Choate a 2-run blast to left in the third. It was Choate’s second homer of the season.
Johnathan Baker’s double off reliever Shane Cole made it 4-0 in the fourth. But Cole, who relieved starter Justin Fowler with a runner on second, allowed no more hits, struck out five and walked none until giving way to Hinojosa (4-2) in the seventh.
Watson had three hits and Hinojosa two for TC. Baker and Jared Myrick led Panola with two each.
Brian Ellis’ 3-run homer, his second, in the first inning gave TC a lead it would never relinquish, but the Ponies pulled within 4-3 in the sixth before the Bulldogs sent nine batters to the plate, scoring four runs. Allday’s 2-run single capped the rally.
Colton Reavis relieved starter John Stilson with one out in the top of the sixth and worked out of a jam, but Bolt inserted Hinojosa in the game in the seventh, and Panola reached him for three runs on two hits and a walk, Diego Morales doubling home two runs.
“Colton did a good job in the sixth, but I thought Joaquin would come in and shut them down,” Bolt said in explaining his move. “But he walked the leadoff batter and it got him in trouble. John (Stilson) didn’t have his best stuff, but he kept us in the game until we could score more runs.”
Atwell and Snikeris had three hits each, Ellis homered and singled, Trey Buck doubled and singled and Jake Rogers had his first collegiate home run, a solo shot in the second inning.
Morales was 2 for 2, both doubles, for the Ponies.
Panola College 102 100 00 — 4 8 1
Texarkana College 000 004 01 — 5 8 1
No outs when winning run scored.
Aaron Wilkerson, Travis Reagan (6), Tim Emmott (8), Cory Thomas (8) and Brandon Choate. Justin Fowler, Shane Cole (3), Joaquin Hinojosa (7) and Jordy Snikeris, Lance Marvel (7). WP-Hinojosa (4-2). LP-Emmott (1-2). HR: PC-Matt Juengel, 1st, none on; Choate, 3rd, 1 on; TC-Joaquin Hinojosa, 6th, 1 on.
Panola College 101 001 3 — 6 10 0
Texarkana College 310 004 x — 8 11 0
Derek Bowen, Jeff Stringer (2), Cory Thomas (6), Matt Holland (6) and Brandon Choate. John Stilson, Zach Fowler (6), Colton Reavis (6), Joaquin Hinojosa (7) and Lance Marvel, Jordy Snikeris (7). WP-Stilson (7-1). LP-Bowen (3-2). HR: TC-Brian Ellis, 1st, 2 on; Jake Rogers, 2nd, none on.