By Tony Adams, Sports Editor
Over the course of 13-and-a-half innings, Belton head baseball coach Eddie Cornblum got to see the mental make up of the Belton Tigers’ varsity baseball team Monday night at Tiger Stadium.
After a shaky second inning where they allowed six runs on five hits, the Tigers arms and defense held to Bryan Rudder Rangers to just three runs and 10 hits over the other 13 team trips to the plate.
Belton pushed across 15 runs, five in the final two innings, to win 15-9 over Rudder.
Coby Potvin led off the Tigers’ first inning with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Nathan Santiago was hit by a pitch and the pair scored on a double a Jacob Williamson to make the score 2-0. The Tigers left the bases loaded in the first inning.
Rudder posted six runs on five hits in their half of the second, knocking Williamson off the hill and Cornblum brought in Tish. In the third inning following a walk with one, the Tigers turned a tailor-made 6-4-3 double play, as Miguel Quinones took a grounder to shortstop, tossed it to Santiago at second and he threw down to Aaron Reed to complete the double play.
Santiago set the table in the bottom of the third inning with a single to the gap in left centerfield. He promptly swiped second base and scored on Shane Stafford’s double into the right centerfield gap to narrow the gap to 6-3.
Cornblum then brought out lefty ace Tanner Frick to pitch the fourth and fifth innings, surrendering just two hits and striking out one.
In the sixth, Trent Stafford singled and was sacrificed to second on a perfect bunt by Reese Hohhertz. Reed’s double scored Trent Stafford and the made the score 6-4. A pair of errors scored Reed to narrow the Rangers’ lead to one run at 6-5.
The Rangers scored on a triple in the seventh and a botched rundown. But the Tigers got out of the inning on another great double play turn from Mark Reynolds, Collin Mask and Chase Sortor.
Belton scored in the bottom of the seventh. Trey Bell walked, Brandon Rudy singled, and Nathan Vail was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Hobie Hiland singled in Bell and Xavier Haines singled in Rudy and Vail to give the Tigers the lead 8-7.
Rudder’s last tallies were in the top of the 10th, as a single, two walks and an error plated two runs to give the Rangers a 9-8 lead.
The Tigers’ resolve shined through, as Mask was hit by a pitch, Tish singled in Mask, and Tish scored on an error by the catcher to make the score 10-9.
During the next four at-bats for Rudder, the Tigers’ pitching surrendered three hits, while giving up on walk and striking out four batters between Ethan Williams and Cameron Whitman.
The Tigers broke the game open in the 12th inning. Haines, following a highlight-reel catch in right field, reached on an error, which started the rally in which he, Mask, Sortor and Reynolds all scored to make the score 14-9.
In the bottom of the 13th inning, Kason Crowell was hit by a pitch, Matt Chapman was hit by a pitch, Vail walked and Austin Villareal singled in Crowell for the final RBI of the game for the Tigers. Whitman closed out the game in the top of the 14th inning.
“I though we did some things really well,” Cornblum said, reflecting on the scrimmage. “I thought we didn’t hit the ball bad for the first time out, but we did some fundamental things not too good. So we need to practice that for Saturday’s scrimmage. Things like first-and-third situations, run downs, hitting the cutoff man to keep a guy from getting into scoring position or a run from scoring. Hitting wise, we had guys in scoring positions and in situations we need the ball to go this way and we’re swinging at balls at our knees. Also, bunting into defenses we need to work on. Sometimes the speed of the game catches up with them and you don’t think. A lot of notes written down and there will be a lot to go over this week. Overall, I like the mentality of our kids. I thought they stayed in tune with the game for 14 innings. The spirit was good and upbeat.”
Brenham comes into Belton to scrimmage the Tigers on Saturday (10 a.m. start at Tiger Stadium). The Cubs friendly rivalry goes back a long time with Belton. They are always stocked on the hill and play a good brand of baseball.
“They’re going to put a lot of pressure on you,” Cornblum said. “They will hit-and-run on you and they will bunt, which is good for us to see. They are coming here for the first time, as we always go there. So that will be interesting. They’re going to be good on the hill and have some corner guys with some pop and power. First base, third base and left field are always strong position guys for them. It is a good match, as we’re very similar.”