By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
There was no scoreboard watching going on at Hewitt’s Waco Midway Panther Field Tuesday night, as the Belton Tigers came calling.
Tanner Frick dropped off his calling card to the southwestern Wacoans, letting them know that he’d be back through in a few months.
The calling card was loaded with fastballs, curveballs and the occasional slider.
The Tigers broke out the bats for 12 hits and were never retired in order, as they gave Frick six runs of support and future McLennan Community College Highlander twirled the first Tiger no-hitter of 2016 in a 6-1 win.
Belton got to Midway starter Nathan Gonzales early, as Collin Mask and Trent Stafford each singled in the first inning with two outs. They were stranded on a good defensive play on Hobey Hiland’s groundout by Matthew Miles.
Frick fanned Miles in the bottom of the first and got Bryce Johnigan to ground out to Miguel Quinones at shortstop and Wade Sivess to fly out to Tyler Kastner to navigate through the inning.
The Tigers rocked the Panthers’ cage in the second inning again with two outs. Quinones and Brandon Rudy each singled before a strikeout stranded two-thirds of the Tigers’ double-play tandem on second and third.
Frick pitched through the second inning, retiring Chris Olivas, Stieler Harris and Caden Henderson in order.
Belton struck with one out in the top of the third, as Mask doubled, Stafford doubled Mask home and Reece Hohhertz’s sacrifice fly brought home Stafford to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead.
A walk earned by Jackson Burns started the bottom of the third inning for Midway. Casey Strauss hit a comebacker that Frick trapped and then threw on a hop to second base that Quinones could not come up with and it bounced into centerfield. The error moved Burns to third base and Strauss to second base. A curve ball bounced between Mask’s shin guards and leaked to the backstop, scoring Burns and moved Strauss to third base. Frick slammed the door. He got Clayton Stewart to fly to Hiland at third base, Miles to fly to left field and Strauss got held at third after an on-the-mark throw by Breck Potvin from left field. Bryce Johnigan grounded out to Quinones and ended the inning with the Tigers retaining the lead, at 2-1.
Belton added four runs in the top of the fourth inning, sending 10 batters to the plate. Quinones hit a screaming liner to third base that was misplayed by Burns. After an out, Kastner hit a liner that Sivess missed at first base and moved Quinones to third base. Potvin drove in Quinones and Gonzales was lifted for Andrew Brown. Mask singled home Kastner and Stafford singled to load the bases. Hohhertz walked to force home Potvin and Vail singled to bring home courtesy runner Andrew Kendall to make the score 6-1.
Frick retired 11 straight before a two-out walk to Johnigan in the sixth inning gave the Panthers slim hopes. Sivess’ fly ball to Rudy at the edge of the outfield retired the side.
Rudy singled again in the top of the seventh, but was stranded on third base to end the inning. The Tigers left 11 runners on base in the ball game.
Frick induced an groundout to Quinones by pinch-hitter Cole Howard for the first out of the seventh. He struck out Harris for out number two and on a 2-2 count got Henderson to fly out to Stafford in right field to secure the no-hitter. The Tigers’ bench poured out of the dugout and showered Frick with bottles of water in celebration.
The Tigers’ lefty went seven innings, allowing an unearned run, two walks and struck out struck out three.
“The team came up big tonight,” Frick said. “When they scored the runs in the fourth and I was able to relax for a while, I knew I had to come back out and throw strikes. I stayed focused. Collin and I stayed in tune and it worked out for us tonight. He set up well and I spotted the ball well. It was a very big win for us.”
“I really didn’t even know that we had that going until right at the end and I was like “Wow.” Mask said. “I’m pumped for him. That was great.”
“It was an amazing confidence-builder for him,” Belton head coach Eddie Cornblum said. “With all of the time he has put in getting back to this point (after fighting shoulder tightness), I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Cornblum was very happy with the Tigers’ overall performance, getting good defensive play and the offense pounding out 12 hits. Getting to Midway’s ace Gonzales early was the key and the game plan was executed nicely.
“Look offspeed all night,” Cornblum said. “Nate shut us down in the last game on offspeed pitches and we told the guys to look offspeed. They went in with that mindset and approach. It paid dividends early and we were able to get into their bullpen early.”
The win moved the Tigers record to 9-2 in District 12-6A play and 17-10 overall.
What about the lack of scoreboard watching, you may ask? Well, Harker Heights clinched the District 12-6A Championship Tuesday night with an 18-2 win over Killeen. It is the first district baseball championship for Heights and the first outright district championship for a Killeen ISD school since 1978.
Belton secured the second-seed in the upcoming playoffs. They will play Harker Heights Friday night at 7 p.m. at Tiger Field in hopes to put a dent in the armor of the Knights’ magical undefeated district run.
Belton uses back-to-back-to-back doubles in sixth, error in seventh to claw past Ellison 4-3
The Belton Tigers rallied, using a trio of doubles to tie the ball game in the bottom of the sixth inning and a two-out routine grounder was thrown away, scoring the winning run to give the Tigers a 4-3, come-from-behind win over Killeen Ellison at Tiger Field.
The Tigers set the tempo early, as starting pitcher Trent Stafford kept the ball down. He and catcher Collin Mask worked the corners of the pitcher with surgical precision. He fanned three of the first six batters he faced.
Stafford helped his own cause in the second inning, with a leadoff walk. Andrew Kendall came in to courtesy run and promptly stole second base. Reece Hohhertz drilled a single into right field, scoring Kendall to put the Tigers up 1-0.
Ellison manufactured a run in the top of the third inning, as Tayvon Dawson singled, Julien Jimenez bunted Dawson to second and Brett Pagel singled Dawson home to tie the ball game a 1-1.
Stafford and his pitching counterpart, Ellison’s Garet Douglas, were locked into a pitchers duel until the Eagles struck for two runs in the fifth inning.
Chandler Rowe was hit by the opening pitch of the inning. With one out, Jimenez had 1-1 count when he tried to lay down a bunt. Mask pounced out of his stance, dove for the ball and snagged it for the second out. Pagel hit a shot back to Stafford on the mound, which he reached back and secured, but Pagel ended up on first. Douglas helped his cause, blasting a two-run double to put the Eagles up 3-1.
Stafford retired seven straight on the hill from that point and laced a two-run double with two outs in the six inning off of the high wall in center field. Kendall came on to run for Stafford and scored when Hohhertz doubled near the wall in center field. Ethan Gilmore came on to run for Hohhertz and he scored when Xavier Haines’ long blast went over Dawson’s head for the Tigers third straight double of the inning to tie the game at 3-3.
In the bottom of the seventh, Brandon Rudy worked a four-pitch walk, was sacrificed to second by Tyler Kastner and Breck Potvin was issued an intentional walk in an attempt to set up for a double play. Rudy and Potvin were on the move when Hobey Hiland hit a slow-roller to Pagel at shortstop. Pagel flipped to second baseman Kenneth Rodriguez at the bag for the first out and the relay throw to Noah Stephens at first base was not in time. It set up the Tigers with runners at the corners for Mask. On a 2-1 pitch, Mask hit a low liner that Rodriguez picked up on a hop and threw to first. The throw went off of the top of Stephens glove and hit the ground, as Rudy crossed home
plate to win the ball game.
Stafford picked up the win in a complete game effort. He went seven innings, allowing three runs (one earned) on five hits, striking out nine and did not issue a walk. He also went 1-of-2 with a walk, setting up courtesy runner Kendall to score two runs.