Baseball Battles to Win Tight Series Over Richland

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Ryan Hurt, Sports Writer

The Mansfield Tiger Baseball team finished the regular season 18-6, winning 2nd in District, which earned them a spot in the playoffs. In the first round they drew up Richland, a team that was neck and neck with the Tigers and could go either way. A season filled with high expectations, the Tigers weren’t ready to end their season just yet.

“Our team this year is really close,” said senior Aaron Funk. “We always have a good time on and off the field.”

Game one of the series was on Thursday at Mansfield High School. The Tigers got hot early as they took a 5-0 lead by the 2nd inning, highlighted by a 2 run home run by pitcher, Nathan Woods and a 2 RBI single by catcher, Zach Murray. Richland countered with 5 runs of their own, notably from a 3 run home run by Julian Flores.

“It was a rough game, but luckily our offense got my back,” said Woods.

Richland later took a 7-6 lead in the top of the 4th, but the Tigers quickly crushed it tagging on two runs of their own with the help of a home run from second baseman, Colton Whitehouse. Woods then threw 2 lights out innings in the 5th and 6th, retiring 6 batters in a row.

“Not much changed, they just made good hits when they needed too,” said Woods.

Woods gave up one more in the 7th to cut the lead to 9-8. Woods, however, remained calm and ended the game with a strikeout. The Tigers never looked back after their lead in the 5th, and ended up narrowly winning the game 9-8.
Game 2 was played on Friday at Richland, known for their loud fan base. The Rebels got on the board early, scoring 2 runs in the 1st then scoring another on a passed ball in the 4th. Mansfield was struggling to make contact with the ball.

“Our offense wasn’t hitting,” said Woods. “12 hits Thursday turned into 4 hits.”

Mansfield began to rally late when Kyle Cullen scored on a sacrifice fly by Austin Tidwell, and then from a two run home run from Aaron Funk in the top of the 7th which tied the game at 3-3. The Tiger’s wave of hope came crashing down when Rebel,Trent Clark, a projecting a top 10 draft pick, scored from second on a failed pickoff attempt to end the game.

“It was an awful way to end the game,” said sophomore Max McCarthy.

After a disappointing defeat, characterized by errors and mistakes, the Tiger were thirsty for a game three win.
The final game of the series was played on Saturday at Mansfield, and filled with tension. Both teams were determined to advance, which lead to high levels of stress for both teams. This game was characterized by incredible pitching from both teams. Mansfield got on the board early with a walk from Kyle Cullen, in which he was able to score from a sac fly from Dillon Eatman. This score held until the sixth were the Tigers saw themselves in a jam, facing the bases loaded with 1 out. Trevor Hukill, the Mansfield starting pitcher, skillfully worked out of it, forcing a groundball that turned into a 4-6-3 double play. The Richland head coach furiously argued the call on the first base.

“It was an intense game” said Chandler Grigsby. “We got through it thanks to our fans.”

This was when the worm began to turn for the Tigers, they could see the finish line. In the bottom of the 6th, Austin Tidwell reached on base with a base hit, followed by a sac bunt from Dillon Eatman in which Eatman was hit with ball on the way to base, which allowed him to remain a baserunner. With 2 people on base, Aaron Funk knocked in what appeared to be 2 runs on a triple. However, one of the runners did not step on home on the way in, which resulted in his automatic out. Hukill then finished the 7th with another strikeout to end the game and series.

“It was an unbelievable game,” said Hukill. “My defense worked well behind me and our offense got the job done.”

Hukill finished with 7 shutout innings, 6 hits (all singles), with 7 strikeouts.

“This win feels great,” said DH Travis Walters. “We have had people question how good we are all year, and I think we have shown the people who doubt us who we really are.”

The Tigers will face Keller next in the area round.