By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
The Belton Tigers achieved their first half goal: to go 6-0 in the first half of District 12-6A play.
They did it in exciting fashion in front of nearly 1,000 fans Tuesday night at a windy Tiger Field, as Jacob Alexander’s walk-off base hit following a scrappy at-bat in the bottom of the seventh inning gave the Tigers a 5-4 win.
The win set the Tigers two games apart from Midway and Harker Heights atop District 12-6A at 6-0 and 9-7 overall.
Shaukind Santos’ RBI single to center in the second inning gave Heights a 1-0. Belton countered in the bottom of the second with Brandon Rudy’s two-out single to left field, scoring Chase Sortor. Starting pitcher Daniel Cole was backing up home plate on the play and attempted to throw Rudy at second and threw the ball into right-centerfield, in which Rudy sprinted in to score to put the Tigers up 2-1.
Heights tied the ballgame in the third inning, as former Belton player Jacob Mitchell hit a shot to shortstop that Miguel Quinones couldn’t come up with. Michael Rae Zapata scored a split-second before Tyler Torres was tagged out at third by Hobey Hiland, who was assisted by a strong throw from centerfielder Coby Potvin.
Sortor’s two-run double scored Quinones and Nathan Vail to right-center in the third inning to give Belton a two-run lead, 4-2.
Belton starting pitcher Cameron Whitman pitched a solid game, striking out six Knights in six innings, but ran into trouble in the top of the seventh. Landon Persick hit a hanging curveball for a solo shot to cut the lead in half, 4-3. Seth Dean singled, forcing Belton head coach Eddie Cornblum to dip into his bullpen. He called on left-hander Tanner Frick.
Frick hit Zapata, the first batter he faced, and Zapata and Dean moved up a base on a wild pitch. Kyle Skelton’s flyout to centerfield induced another strong throw from Potvin to attempt to keep Dean from scoring. The throw was a shade up the third-base line and Dean managed to avoid Alexander’s tag to tie the game at 4-4.
The Tigers answered the bell in the seventh, as Quinones singled, Nathan Vail sacrifice Quinones to second and Hiland singled to put runners on first and third. Collin Mask went into the game to run for Quinones. Alexander fought off several pitches before lining a pitch into right field, scoring Mask and setting off a celebratory dog pile of Tigers between first and second base.
“We’ve had two great back-to-back games. This was awesome,” Cornblum said. “It was almost like a playoff game. It was great to see our kids reacted. Our goal was a 6-0 first half.”
Belton trips Midway 4-1 in eight innings
Tanner Frick gave himself…and helped give his Belton teammates…a birthday present that long be remembered after the cake has been eaten and gifts have been used: a Tiger Baseball victory at Midway in 2015.
Frick overcame a shaky start, while getting solid defensive contributions from Miguel Quinones and Chase Sortor and a three-run eighth inning from the offense for a 4-1 Belton win against the Panthers in Hewitt Thursday night.
Midway got on the board in the first inning, as Bryce Johnigan singled, Toby Jowers sacrificed Johnigan to second and Matthew Miles singled Johnigan home.
Both Frick and Midway starter Nathan Gonzales, battled against the Panthers and Belton offenses respectively, scattering base runners throughout the middle innings.
Belton picked up the tying run in the top of the sixth inning. Coby Potvin singled and Miguel Quinones sacrificed him to second. Nathan Vail’s single to left field advanced Potvin to third base and Hobey Hiland singled Potvin home to tie the score. Jacob Alexander reached base to load the bases for Chase Sortor with one out. Sortor lined a pitch back up the middle and hit the properly positioned field umpire’s foot behind the mound. The ball ricocheted to Jared Pool at shortstop, as he flipped the ball to Jackson Burns at second and sent a perfect relay to Jowers at first for the double play. The unfortunate bounce cut off the Belton rally.
Pool singled with one out bottom in the sixth inning when Wade Sivess grounded to Quinones and he, Brandon Rudy and Sortor converted a double play of their own to get Frick out of the inning.
Gonzales struck out the side in the seventh, forcing Frick to prolong the ballgame for the Tigers in the bottom of the seventh.
Frick walked Stieler Harris, setting up an opportunity for Chris Olivas. Olivas hit a grounder up the middle that Quinones picked up going to his glove-side, touched second and threw down to Sortor, who made an amazing stretch to convert the double play. Frick struck out Drew Watters, sending the game into an extra frame.
Potvin singled to start the eight inning and Quinones sacrificed Potvin to second once again. Vail walked and Hiland reached on an error by Pool, which scored Potvin for the go-ahead run. Alexander singled to right field to score Vail and Sortor’s line shot past Sivess at third base scored Hiland to make the score 4-1.
Belton head coach Eddie Cornblum inserted Cameron Whitman in to close out the eighth. Whitman struck out pinch hitter Carson Griffin and Johnigan for the first two outs. Jowers singled and Miles walked bringing the tying run to the plate in Pool. He swung at the first pitch and flew out to Potvin to end the ballgame.
Hiland’s HR breaks game open against Ellison
The Belton Tigers began the week with tough home matchup with the Killeen Ellison Eagles at Tiger Field.
Hiland’s HR, Vail’s 3-RBI night help propel Tigers over Ellison 11-2.
The Tigers got extra base hits from Shane Stafford, Trent Stafford, Jacob Alexander and Chase Sortor.
Ellison took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning before Sortor’s double in the bottom of the second set up Shane Stafford’s RBI ground out to tie the game.
Belton broke out with a four-run third inning, as Coby Potvin and Miguel Quinones’ singles set up Vail’s two-run single to put Belton up 3-1. Hiland reached on a fielder’s choice to load the bases. Alexander’s double and Sortor’s single each brought in runs to give Belton a 5-1 lead.
Ellison answered with a run in the fourth on Anthony Spencer’s single to make the score 5-2.
Belton picked up three runs in the fourth inning, as Vail knocked in Dustin Tish to regain the four-run advantage. Hiland’s two-run homer over the left-centerfield fence made the score 8-2.
Trent Stafford’s two-run double and Coby Potvin’s RBI flyout to center field made the score 11-2.
Trent Stafford went five innings, allowing two runs on five hits, walking four and striking out seven. Cameron Whitman pitched two innings and struck out five Eagles.