Belton baseball has a history of winning close games against great teams. The Tigers and Midway in district have no equals and when two great teams collide, the game will be close at the end.
On Friday night, Belton won another district championship in baseball with an 8-7 win over Midway at Tiger Field. A two-out, two-strike homerun in the final inning tied the game 7-7 but the Tigers put the game away in their final at bat.
Belton controlled the game the whole way till the final inning. Jared Janczak drove in the winning run for the Tigers.
After battling A&M Consolidated for years for the district title, Belton is no stranger to close wins and close losses to top programs. This year the Tigers came out on top.
“We came out wanting this after having them beat in the first game. This was an intense game. We don’t swing for the fences and have a great on-base percentage,” said Winders.
The Tigers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning with a Cameron Cooper double. Janczak drove in Cooper with a double, Joey Hogan drawing a walk, with Walker Winders driving in a run and Hogan scoring on a bad throw.
Belton knocked out starting Midway pitcher Nathan Gonzales. Midway scored a run in the top of the second inning. First baseman Chase Sortor made a great stop down the line on a one-hop ball that was smoking.
The Tigers were very, patient at the plate not swinging at bad pitches and forcing a lot of full counts. Cooper drew a walk. Janczak drove the ball to the wall but Midway came away with a great catch. Hogan hit the center field wall driving in Cooper with a standup double. Winders crushed a two-run homerun to make it 6-1 Tigers after two innings.
Right fielder Ryne Neimi made all three outs in the top of the third to shut down Midway. In the top of the fourth, catcher Joe Pare made several good stops behind the plate with runners on base. Starting pitcher Janczak got a strike out and Pare came up with another good stop at first with Janczak coming over to help for the third out.
Mark Herrington ripped a single, Cooper tried to advance the runner bunted and beat out the throw. Janczak bunted and he beat out the throw with a perfect bunt to load the bases with nobody out. Herrington scored on a passed ball but that was it for the inning with Belton leading 7-1.
The Tigers were close to getting out of the top of the fifth but with two outs Midway ripped a double to make it 7-2, a wild pitch added a run and a single made it 7-4.
Belton left two runners on base in the bottom of the fifth. Justin Golden came in for the Tigers in the top of the sixth and with two outs shortstop Winders dove over second base to stop a ground ball. From the ground on one knee he turned and fired the ball to first in a sensational play to rob Dustin Vasek of a base hit, as he slammed his helmet down in frustration.
Midway hit two singles by Ross Coskrey and Case Smith, Hunter Jarmon tied the game with a three-run homer on a 1-2 offering from Golden. Belton’s defense held and Belton had a chance to win it in the bottom of the seventh.
Pare reached on an error to start the inning and Matt Varville replaced him on first. Neimi advanced Varville on a sacrifice bunt to second and with two outs, Janczak chopped a hard hit ball over the third baseman’s head to score Varville. It was a well-played ball game by both teams.
The Tigers finished 13-1 in district and 20-10-1 in the regular season and will take on District 7-5A fourth place South Grand Prairie in the bi-district playoffs.
Game one is at South Grand Prairie on Thursday at 7 p.m. Game two is in Belton at 7 p.m. on Friday. Should the best-of-three series reach a third and deciding game, it will be played at LaGrave Field in Fort Worth, Saturday at 6 p.m. LaGrave Field, built in 1926, is home for the United Baseball League’s Fort Worth Cats.
“I happy for the players. It was wonderful to watch them win district. We preach patience at the plate. They take what is given to them. When things get tough it is all a matter of how you respond. We have little toilets in each locker to remind them to flush away all the bad stuff. Baseball changes fast and Midway is a great team,” said Tigers head coach Eddie Cornblum.