An epic cat fight broke out late Monday afternoon at Tiger Field, as the Houston High School baseball team beat Seymour 3-2 in 10 innings.
With the score tied at 2 in the bottom of the 10th, the host Tigers loaded the bases with no outs when visiting Tigers’ senior pitcher Juan-Jose Valbuena walked senior Danny Venable, gave up a double to junior Wyatt Hughes and issued another base on balls to senior Casey Merckling. Senior catcher Ryan Wolfe then stepped into the batter’s box and delivered a single to center field and Houston secured the walk-off victory.
In what could certainly be called a pitchers’ duel, three Seymour hurlers combined for a whopping 21 strikeouts while two Houston pitchers recorded 15.
Senior Garyn Hall started on the mound for the host Tigers and went 7 full innings, allowing only 4 hits and no earned runs while fanning 11 and walking none. Hughes then worked the final three frames, allowing only 1 hit while striking out 4 and not issuing a walk.
Houston got on the board with a run in the bottom of the first inning when Venable walked, took second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a ground ball and then scored on another wild pitch.
The host Tigers struck again with 2 outs in the second frame when senior right fielder Austin Goetz walked, stole second and then came home when Hall doubled to center.
Seymour evened the score with 2 unearned runs in the top of the sixth inning. With 1 out, the visiting Tigers got runners on second and third after a single and an error, and both scored on a wild pitch followed by a throwing error.
After the botched play, the experienced Houston squad just went right back to work.
“That’s a testament to us being a veteran team,” said HHS head coach Brent Hall. “The guys don’t really let things get to them and I really don’t get on them for it. We just move on to the next play.”
The game was stopped for a 20-minute “sun delay” in the ninth inning, as the head umpire halted the action when Seymour’s catcher couldn’t see the ball as the sun was going down almost directly over the center field fence. The visiting Tigers (3-1) came into the contest ranked ninth in the latest Class 2 poll. Houston is in Class 3.
UPS-AND-DOWNS WITH THE LUMBER
Despite the frequent outbursts of rainy weather, the Diamond Tigers managed to play all three scheduled games in last week’s Houston Wood Bat Classic at Tiger Field.
Houston opened the four-team round-robin event with by blanking Cuba 10-0 on Monday (details in last week’s Herald), but were then spanked 19-4 by county rival Licking on Wednesday before bouncing back with a 10-2 victory over Mountain Grove on Thursday.
In the lopsided loss to Licking, the visiting Wildcats got on the board with 4 runs in the top of the first inning and never looked back, scoring 3 times in the second inning and once in the third, before adding 7 runs in the fourth frame and 4 more in the fifth. Licking amassed 17 hits in the contest; senior first baseman Rusty Buckner led the way by going 3-for-4 with a double, a walk, 6 RBIs and 3 runs scored, while junior center fielder Keyton Cook went 3-for-5 with 3 RBIs and 2 runs.
Meanwhile, the Tigers helped their opponents by committing numerous errors (exact number not available) while three different players shared pitching duties with nominal success. Houston had 8 hits in the game, with juniors Stone Jackson and Aiden Kelly notching 2 apiece.
In the win over Mountain Grove, Houston turned a close game into a rout with an 8-run rally in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Leading 2-1 going into the frame, the Tigers went up 3-1 when Hall (at shortstop in the contest) walked, made it to third base on a pair of wild pitches and then scored on a ground ball. Houston then loaded the bases on a single by Merckling and a walk by Wolfe, and took a 4-1 lead on a single to right by Jackson.
Kelly followed with a 2-run single to center field to put the Tigers on top 6-1, and the margin grew to 8-1 on a 2-run error. Before the inning was over, Houston built a 10-1 advantage when senior second baseman smacked a 2-run double to the gap in deep left-center field.
Mountain Grove added a run in the top of the seventh inning before the final out was recorded.
Sophomore Shaun Buck started on the mound for the Tigers and worked 5 2/3 innings, allowing only 3 hits and 1 earned run while striking out 5 and walking 3. Venable finished the game in relief.
Houston base runners stole 7 bases in the contest, with Kelly swiping 3 bags and Hall 2.
In other games in the Wood Bat Classic, Licking beat Mountain Grove 20-8 on Monday and Mountain Grove downed Cuba 12-2 on Wednesday. The Thursday matchup between Licking and Cuba was postponed, as rain began falling just after the Houston vs. Grove game ended.
Wolfe said who the opponent is has no effect on Houston’s mental approach to games.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “We just try go out and play the way we should every time.”
Houston (4-1 through Monday) travels to Bourbon on Thursday (March 30) and will play Friday and Saturday in the annual Alton Tournament. The Tigers are scheduled to open South Central Association conference play Monday at Salem.
“There are a lot of areas where we’re doing fine, and other areas we need to improve on,” coach Hall said. “If we’re going to advance in the postseason, we’ve got to hit good pitching better – at least put the ball in play more.”