By Tony Adams

Belton Journal

It is hard to hit what you cannot see.

For the Belton Tigers, it was a tough go of things for 14 innings.

The Tigers took to the road for their Class 5A Bi-District Playoff round against the Magnolia Bulldogs in Caldwell on Friday.

Belton faced three solid pitchers in Magnolia left-hander Ashton Bassett and right-handers Derek Devos and Elliott Burrows in the series. The Tigers were unable to catch up to the velocity and movement of the pitches as they were swept by the Bulldogs by scores of 13-0 and 8-0.

“We faced some guys that Magnolia put out there that we don’t see very often,” Belton head coach Mark Krueger said. “In fact, we thought their third guy was just as good if not better than the first two. It is hard to duplicate the velocity and movement from a pitching machine. Magnolia did a good job keeping us off balance at the plate. They never allowed us to get back in the game with a big inning ourselves.”

In the first game, the Bulldogs jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a pair of Tiger errors on the same play in the first inning.

Magnolia went on to score one run in the second, four in the third, two in the sixth, and four in the seventh to win game one.

Four Bulldogs had two hits each in Magnolia’s 12-hit attack. Of the 13 runs scored, eight were earned.

Bassett surrendered three hits, walked two, and struck out 13.

Reese Rumfield, Cole Heisler, and Gage Flores collected Belton’s three hits. Sam Shepard and Rayshaun Peoples also walked in the Tigers’ offensive effort. Belton (20-10) left seven on base.

Haisler, Landon Baker, and Jose Rangel took the hill for the Tigers, combining to strike out seven Bulldogs.

“We definitely did not play to our standards on the mound or defensively,” Kreuger said. “Errors or not hitting your cutoff man in playoff games only magnifies the mistake.  Great teams take advantage of those mistakes and you saw that on Friday.”

In the second game, Magnolia pulled out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the second when Layton Weaks doubled to left centerfield. Magnolia loaded the bases in the third inning when Jordan Enyart cleared the bases with a triple to increased Magnolia’s advantage to 6-0.

The Bulldogs scored runs in the fourth and fifth inning to round out the scoring.

Devos went five innings on the mound for Magnolia, allowed three hits, walked two, and struck out 12. Burrows pitched two innings, allowed one hit, and struck out four.

Rumfield and Austin Wood each had a single and a walk, and Shepard and Trap Johnson added base hits. Belton left four runners on base.

Jacob Quigley and Easton Drake combined to strike out nine and walk four.

Following a four-game losing streak against tough competition to start the season, the Tigers won 18 of their next 20 games to clinch a playoff spot.

“The team struggled early on. We never could put everything together (pitching, hitting, defense),” Krueger said. “It seemed we would be great in one area but lacking in the other two. The Lake Highlands tournament for us is when we put everything together. We went 4-0 against some great competition. We had some great pitching performances along with key hits that week. Two of those four wins were by one run. It was a great weekend to end our preseason and to prepare us for district.”

While the Tigers have several players graduating, they will have plenty of hungry Tigers in waiting.

“We definitely appreciate our senior class, most of the guys have been with us for all four of their high school careers,” Krueger said. “Winning 20 games in high school is a great accomplishment for a baseball team. Besides their accomplishments on the field, they have built lifelong friendships and memories that no one can take from them.

Our sub varsity teams were competitive all season, and that makes us excited for the upcoming years with our Tiger baseball program.”