His team’s season over, Houston coach Brent Hall shared emotional embraces with his seniors. Hall said it’s maybe the most difficult part of his job.
“It’s almost like they are your own. I treat them that way,” Hall said. “We spend a lot of time together and are like a family. You’re basically saying goodbye to that part of their life. It’s tough.”
What began as a promising season ended last Thursday as the Tigers fell behind early and despite a seventh-inning rally, lost to Logan-Rogersville 5-3 in the Class 3 District 10 championship game in Houston.
Rogersville defeated Pleasant Hill 4-3 in Tuesday’s sectional round to advance to the state quarterfinals.
The district final was a struggle early for the Tigers. They managed just one baserunner in the opening 5 2/3 innings and trailed 5-0 going into the top of the seventh inning.
Senior Kyle Poynter homered to deep left-center field — just the second hit of the game for Houston (17-5) — and Rogersville starter Randy Preslar suddenly became vulnerable. The Tigers loaded the bases with no outs and after scoring twice, still had the bases loaded when senior Chris Mooney came to the plate with two outs.
But reliever Seth Conner got a called third strike on Mooney to end the rally and Houston’s season.
“We had our chance to tie the game or win it, which I guess is all you can ask for,” Hall said.
Both teams were hitless through three innings against Poynter and Preslar. Conner had a hit-and-run single for the game’s first hit and after a wild pitch plated a run, Zach Herman’s double made it 2-0.
Rogersville scored three more times in the seventh, highlighted by a line drive by Herman that eluded Houston center fielder Brandon Belt and brought home two runs.
Preslar shut down the Tigers’ offense. He retired 17 of the first 18 batters he faced until Lucas Cooperman doubled with two outs in the top of the sixth. Preslar gave up just two hits and one earned run in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out seven and walked one.
“He had a change-up, and we hadn’t seen a good one all year,” Hall said. “He did his job and shut us down for the most part.”
After Poynter’s homer in the top of the seventh, Eli Smith reached on a strikeout and Kaleb Poynter and J.R. Knetzer were both hit by pitches to load the bases. Kenny Barton walked to force home a run and after a strikeout, Ty Foster made it 5-3 with a RBI groundout.
With two outs, Rogersville intentionally walked Cooperman to load the bases. Conner — the third pitcher of the inning — then struck out Mooney to end the game.
Kyle Poynter took the loss, giving up five hits and three earned runs in six innings. He walked four. Two of those runners scored.
“If we could have kept those walks from scoring or made the play in center field, we might be the ones moving on,” Hall said.
After addressing his entire team far away from the stands in right field, Hall shared a moment with each of his graduating seniors. It was a final farewell to a group that led Houston to the SCA tournament and regular-season championships in 2010.
“This was a special group,” Hall said. “It was one of the first groups dedicated to playing baseball all the time. They put the work in and deserved every bit of success they had. They earned it.”