Belton Youth Baseball Association’s 10U Belton Ducks squad traveled to Temple Wednesday evening for their opening game of the 2016 Texas Teenage Baseball Association’s 10U Tight Base Tournament at the Northam Baseball Complex.
The tournament started a day later than scheduled due to a rainout on July 25. The Ducks drew a first-round bye, giving them an extra day to prepare for their matchup with the Rusk Astros.
The Astros hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the first inning and were able to hold on for a 5-2 win over the Ducks.
Rusk took a 3-0 lead on a towering homer over the 180-foot mark in centerfield with two outs in the first inning, the first out on an attempted steal. Kadyn Martinez threw down to Trap Johnson at second, who tagged out Joe Reasonover.
Martinez hit the first pitch of the second inning 30 feet beyond the 180-foot mark in right-centerfield to get the Ducks on the board. Austin Farris shut down the Astros in the second inning on the mound.
The Ducks…and Mother Nature… answered in the third inning. During Cade Higginbotham’s at-bat, the hot and light, breezy day turned into a gust-fest, with wind blowing a consistent 30 miles-per-hour. Higginbotham singled and Farris doubled to put two Ducks in scoring position. Higginbotham scored on a 1-0 pitch to Johnson to bring the Ducks back to within a single run, 3-2. After the final out of the top of the third inning, the game went into a lightning delay.
Following a 35-minute delay, the teams came back on the field and Martinez took over for Farris on the mound in the bottom of the third inning. Rusk scratched out a run on two hits to double the lead to 4-2. They generated another run in the bottom of the fifth. The Ducks were only able to put two runners on base over the final three innings and lost the game 5-2.
Martinez, Higginbotham, Farris and Truitt Costine got the four hits during the game for the Ducks.
The Ducks played the Cross Plains Buffaloes to stay alive in the state tournament. Cross Plains lost to the Buffalo Bison in the opening round.
Belton got to Cross Plains’ pitching early, as Higginbotham walked, Farris singled and Trap Johnson walked to load the bases. A fly out to second, a force out of Higginbotham at the plate and a fly out to third bailed the Buffaloes out of early trouble.
Meanwhile, Higginbotham was straight nasty on the bump for Ducks. He struck out five of the first seven batters he faced in the first two innings, working in unison with Martinez. They worked the pitches around the strike zone with regularity.
The Ducks scored in the third inning. Higginbotham helped his cause with a walk to lead off the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Trap Johnson advanced Higginbotham to third on a ground out and Martinez walked. Cooper Mees hit a blast that two-hopped the fence for a double, scoring Higginbotham and Martinez.
The Buffaloes had runners at first and third in the third inning before Higginbotham picked up three strikeouts to put down the threat.
Belton put up another pair of runs in the fourth inning. Costine singled and was run for by William Knight. Austin Lopez walked and was run for by Gage Flores. Tyler Johnson laid a picture perfect drag bunt down the first base line for a single to load the bases. With one out, Farris hit a liner to left field that one-hopped the fence. Knight and Flores scored, and Tyler Johnson was thrown out on a bang-bang play at the plate. The play gave the Ducks a 4-0 lead.
Higginbotham pitched his way through back-to-back Ducks’ defensive miscues in the fourth inning and struck out another pair of Cross Plains hitters.
Cross Plains wiggled their way out of a Ducks’ scoring situation with solid defense in the top of the fifth inning. The Buffaloes singled and walked to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. Ducks’ head coach Keegan Costine lifted Higginbotham for Trap Johnson, who promptly struck out the next three hitters on 11 pitches.
At the conclusion of the fifth inning, 10 seconds remained on the two-hour clock, forcing a sixth inning to be played. The Ducks ensured that they no interest in a tight ball game and sent 10 batters to plate in the top of the frame.
With one out, Higginbotham singled, Farris walked and Trap Johnson singled home Higginbotham. Martinez hit a one-hopper against the wall, scoring Farris and Trap Johnson to increase the score to 7-0. Collin Taylor singled home Martinez and Costine singled home Taylor to make the score 9-0.
Farris was given the ball in the bottom of the sixth inning and took care of business. The first two batters hit ground balls back to him on the hill and he struck out the final batter.
Higginbotham had a dynamite game, reaching base in three of his four trips to the plate and striking out 10 of the 19 batters he faced, allowing three hits and walking just one batter. Farris, Mees and Trap Johnson also reached base three times.