The No. 6 McLennan Highlanders picked up a three-game series sweep of perennial Region-V powerhouse Midland Friday and Saturday at Bosque River Ballpark.
The Highlanders showed total domination in the series opener, crushing the Chaparrals 18-1. Sophomore Nick Urbantke got the win on the mound in relief of starter Logan Freeman who recorded eight strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings.
Josh Breaux's solo home run in the bottom of the first inning began the McLennan scoring.
Two more Highlander runners scored in the bottom of the second inning. Chase Sortor led off with a single and scored on a double by Thomas Santos. Santos then scored on a sacrifice by Aidan Shepardson.
Another McLennan run came across the plate in the bottom of the fourth as Shepardson was safe at first and move to second on a Midland error, then scored on a double by George Callil.
Midland's only run came in the top of the fifth inning as Riley King singled and scored on a double by Jordan Billups.
Keaton Milford tripled and scored on a sacrifice by Sortor in the bottom of the fifth to put the Highlanders up 5-1.
McLennan opened the floodgates in the bottom of the sixth, scoring 10 runs in the frame. Shepardson singled and scored on a double by Callil. Dylan Neuse followed with a two-run homer. Griffin Paxton drew a walk and Breaux singled. Milford followed with a single to score Paxton, and Sortor doubled to bring in Breaux and Milford. Sortor advanced to third on a wild pitch and Mitchell Caskey walked. Santos followed with a single to score Sortor. A passed ball moved Santos and Caskey to second and third, respectively, and both scored on a single by Shepardson. Neuse followed with a double to bring Shepardson in to score.
The final three Highlander runs came in the bottom of the eighth. Pinch hitter Brooks Embry was hit by the pitch, Shepardson singled and Callil was hit by the pitch to load the bases. Neuse drew a walk, bringing Embry in to score. Shepardson scored on a ground-out double play by Paxton, and Breaux singled to score Callil.
"I thought our ballclub came out with good intensity, but I was really proud of the way we had a very businesslike, relaxed atmosphere. Our guys were all business. I was a little concerned before the game started that we might have been flat, but in retrospect, it looks like we were relaxed. I'm pleased that they were able to come out with that kind of attitude," head coach Mitch Thompson said.
"When you look back, we had a really nice pitching performance from Freeman as a starter but also from Urbantke and Max Mize out of the bullpen. As a coach, one of the things that really makes you feel good about your ballclub from time to time is especially when your bullpen is able to come in and really throw the ball well. It was obvious that our bullpen did. Between Urbantke and Mize, they threw 4 2/3 innings, over half the ballgame; they struck out seven and gave up two hits. That's a really nice performance. Our pitching staff only giving up five hits and one run, and striking out 15 Midland hitters, we will take that every day."
"Offensively, our guys competed well at the plate and got off to a good start, scoring a run early, which was nice, and we continued to add to the lead. It was nice to see Neuse with two extra base hits and four RBIs; Breaux hitting another home run, that's outstanding. But, up and down the lineup, Sortor with three RBIs; Shepardson, our eight-hole hitter with three RBIs; and then two RBIs from both Santos and Callil in the seven and nine holes. We got great production from the bottom half of our order. That's a tell-tale sign of success, so hopefully we can continue that tomorrow.
"We need to be prepared to take Midland's best shot because I'm sure they are going to come out and compete very hard. I have great respect for their program, and we will need to show back up and be ready to compete hard for two games."
The Highlanders completed the series sweep of the Midland Chaparrals with a pair of victories Saturday afternoon.
McLennan added two runs in the second. Nick Thornquist and Brooks Embry hit back-to-back singles and advanced on a sacrifice by Aidan Shepardson. George Callil followed with a double to score Thornquist, and Embry scored on a sacrifice fly by Dylan Neuse.
Another Highlander run scored in the bottom of the third as Chase Sortor doubled, advanced to third on another Midland error and scored on a wild pitch.
Midland got on the board with a run in the fourth inning. Garrett Wilkinson and Braden Scrivner both singled. Wilkinson moved to third on an overthrow and scored on a wild pitch.
McLennan's final two runs came in the bottom of the fifth. Breaux doubled and moved to third on a balk. Keaton Milford hit a fielder's choice but both runners were safe on the corners. Another balk brought Breaux in to score and advanced Milford to second. Milford then moved to third on an overthrow and scored on a wild pitch.
The Chaparrals rounded out the scoring with three runs in the top of the seventh. Jordan Billups doubled and Cade Bullinger drew a walk. Both runners scored on a triple by Frainyer Chavez. Ethan Barker followed with a sacrifice fly to score Chavez.
The Highlanders shut out Midland 7-0 in the nightcap with Shane Daughety getting the win. Daughety combined with Connor Heffron, Alex DeLeon, Levi David and Grant Miller to strike out 14 Midland batters and hold the Chaparrals to only one hit.
Chase Sortor's solo home run put the Highlanders on the board in the second.
McLennan added two runs in the third as Paxton walked and scored on another Sortor homer.
Three Highlander runs scored in the fourth. Jackson Nichols walked, Neuse singled and Breaux walked to load the bases. A balk advanced the runners and brought Nichols in to score. Milford then doubled to score Neuse and Breaux.
The final run came in the bottom of the eighth as Neuse singled and scored on a double by Paxton.
"It's a great day to come out of here with a doubleheader sweep. A sweep of the three-game series with a team the caliber of Midland is a big feather in our cap here early in the year. I'm really proud of our guys. Midland or McLennan has represented Region V at the Junior College World Series in four of the last five years. This is a big-time rivalry and a big-time series; for us to get the sweep is really a great way to start the year," head coach Mitch Thompson said.
"The pitching was again the factor. Only giving up four runs in a doubleheader is going to bode well for us long term. Tristan Bayless, Cole and Strambler coming in and getting the save in game one was outstanding. Even in his just 1/3 of an inning, it was game time and a big-time out, so I'm proud of Payton. Josh Breaux had a couple extra-base hits in game one and it was a tight ballgame. So, it was a good day and a good win."
"To come back in the nightcap to shut them out and take a no-hitter into the ninth inning and finish it up with a one-hit shutout was a big deal. Daughety was outstanding on the mound. I'm really proud of our pitching. To one-hit a team the caliber of Midland is a really big deal."
"Offensively, Sortor had a big day in game two, hitting two home runs and driving in three runs. Midland had a couple big RBIs. It's a team effort all the way around. We are playing good defense; we are really throwing the ball well; and our offense has showed up early this year. That is a good sign for our ballclub."
"We will be challenged big time as we play four games in the San Jac Tournament of Champions. We will play Midland again, followed by nationally ranked and top-10 Howard. On Saturday, we will play top-10 ranked Northwest Florida State who beat us in the national championship game in 2015; then Chipola, who is the defending national champion and the current No. 1 team in the country. So, we will have our hands full and we will continue to be challenged, but that's the way we like it. We are trying to find out exactly what we have and how we can continue to improve. The only way you do that is to play great people."
McLennan 18, Midland 1
Midland 000 010 000 – 1 5 1
McLennan 120 1110 03x – 18 18 0
Logan McCrummen, Hutton Frazier (4), Chandler Eaton (6), Cade Bullinger (6) and Cameron Melcher. Logan Freeman, Nick Urbantke (5), Max Mize (8) and Josh Breaux, Jackson Nichols (8). WP: Urbantke; LP: McCrummen. Leading hitters – Midland: Riley King (1-3, 2B) and Jordan Billups (1-3, 2B, RBI); McLennan: Dylan Neuse (3-5, 2B, HR, 4 RBI), Josh Breaux (3-6, HR, 2 RBI), Keaton Milford (2-5, 3B, RBI), Chase Sortor (2-4, 2B, 3 RBI), Thomas Santos (2-4, 2B, 2 RBI), Aidan Shepardson (3-4, 3 RBI) and George Callil (3-4, 2 2B, 2 RBI). Record: McLennan 5-0.
McLennan 6, Midland 4
Midland 000 100 3 – 4 7 3
McLennan 121 020 x – 6 7 0
Jacob Webb, Aaron Weseman (5) and Garrett Wilkinson. Tristan Bayless, Dylan Cole (5), Payton Strambler (7) and Nick Thornquist. WP: Cole; LP: Webb; SV: Strambler. Leading hitters – Midland: Frainyer Chavez (2-4, 3B, 2 RBI), Ethan Barker (0-2, RBI), Garrett Wilkinson (2-4) and Jordan Billups (2-3, 2 2B); McLennan: Dylan Neuse (0-3, RBI); Josh Breaux (2-3, 2B, 3B, RBI), Chase Sortor (1-3, 2B) and George Callil (1-3, 2B, RBI). Record: McLennan 6-0.
McLennan 7, Midland 0
Midland 000 000 000 – 0 1 0
McLennan 012 300 01x – 7 12 0
Levi Hon, Justin Lewis (4), Garrett Egli (5), Noel Solis (9) and Cameron Melcher. Shane Daughety, Connor Heffron (5), Alex DeLeon (7), Levi David (8), Grant Miller (9) and Jackson Nichols. WP: Daughety; LP: Hon. Leading hitters – McLennan: Griffin Paxton (1-4, 2B, RBI), Josh Breaux (1-2, 2B), Keaton Milford (2-5, 2B, 2 RBI), Chase Sortor (2-5, 2 HR, 3 RBI) and Mitchell Caskey (3-4). Record: McLennan 7-0.