The McLennan Highlanders and Howard Hawks met at Abilene Christian University for a three-game series this week, and the Hawks are returning home with the series win.
Howard defeated McLennan 11-10 in Sunday's series opener with Levi David taking the loss on the mound for the Highlanders.
McLennan began the scoring with one run in the top of the first as Dylan Neuse drew a lead-off, stole second, advanced to the third on a Howard error and scored as Josh Breaux was safe at first on another Hawks error.
Howard took the lead with five runs in the bottom of the second inning. Tristan Peterson and Saul Garza both homered. Reese O'Farrell singled, and Coll Stanley and Lance Russell both walked to load the bases. Bryan Sturges followed with a base-clearing, three-run double.
The Highlanders added a run with Griffin Paxton's solo home run in the third.
Williams' solo home run in the fourth put Howard ahead 6-2.
McLennan began to chip away at the Hawks' lead with three runs in the top of the fifth. Paxton walked and scored on a homer by Breaux. Keaton Milford followed with a solo home run.
Howard responded with four runs in the bottom of the fifth. Doug Facendo singled, Brett Cain was hit by the pitch and Garza was safe at first on an error to load the bases. O'Farrell followed with a single to score Facendo and Cain, and Jaxon Williams singled. Russell then singled to score Garza and O'Farrell.
The Highlanders added a run in the seventh as Milford tripled and scored on a balk.
Another run crossed the plate for the Highlanders in the eighth as Neuse doubled, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Breaux.
McLennan tied the game with three runs in the top of the ninth. Sortor led off with a solo home run. Thomas Santos singled and moved to second on a wild pitch. Aidan Shepardson singled to score Santos. Shepardson then stole second, moved to third on a fly out by Neuse and scored on a wild pitch.
Howard stole the win with a run in the bottom of the ninth. Pinch hitter Parker Wayne was hit by the pitch and advanced to second on a passed ball. O'Farrell was given the intentional walk. Williams then singled to score Wayne.
The Hawks came from behind to steal game two as well, 5-4, with Payton Strambler taking the loss on the mound for McLennan.
Once again, the Highlanders began the scoring, this time with a run in the bottom of the second, as Shepardson doubled and scored on a double by Neuse.
Howard tied the game with a run in the bottom of the third. Stanley walked, and Williams and Russell both singled to load the bases. Stanley then scored on a sacrifice fly by Facendo.
McLennan took the lead with two runs in the top of the sixth. Sortor singled, and Paxton was safe at first on a mishandled sacrifice hit, moving Sortor to third. Santos followed with a single to score Sortor and Paxton.
The Highlanders added a run in the top of the seventh as Sortor singled, advanced around to third on an error and scored on a double by Paxton.
The Hawks scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh to steal another one-run victory. Williams drew a lead-off walk. Sturges and pinch hitter Jacob Martinez both singled to load the bases. Peterson walked, bringing Williams in to score, and Nick Jodway singled to score Sturges. Cain followed with a walk-off single, scoring Peterson and Jodway.
The Highlanders scored two runs in the top of the first inning. Neuse led off with a single, and Shepardson also singled. Neuse stole third, and Shepardson advanced to second on a wild pitch. Both runners scored on a single by Santos.
Howard tied the game with two runs in the bottom of the first. Russell singled, and Sturges was hit by the pitch. Facendo followed with a single to score Russell, and Sturges stole home.
The Hawks took the lead with a run in the bottom of the fifth as Sturges walked, stole second and scored on a single by Peterson.
McLennan tied the game in the top of the sixth as Sortor doubled, moved to third on a single by Santos and scored on a wild pitch.
Six runs in the seventh inning gave the Highlanders the 9-3 lead. Nichols walked, and Callil was safe at first on a sacrifice hit that put Nichols out at second. Callil moved to second on a wild pitch, and Neuse singled. Shepardson followed with a single to score Callil, and Breaux singled to score Neuse. Sortor walked to load the bases, and Santos followed with a grand slam.
Howard added a run in the eighth as Peterson doubled and scored on a triple by Cain.
The Hawks rounded out the scoring with a run in the bottom of the ninth as O'Farrell singled, advanced to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a single by Russell and scored on a Highlander error.
"The series obviously didn't go the way we wanted it to go. We didn't play exceptionally well; we didn't get very good starting pitching, and we left opportunities out there on the field offensively. When you are playing good people, which we are in playing Howard – a top-10 team, and you give them extra opportunities or walk them, they are going to take advantage of it. So, we lost two close ballgames," head coach Mitch Thompson said. "We had an opportunity to win all three games and were in it in the last inning with the lead in two of the three and tied in the other, but we just didn't get it done. We are within an eyelash of a sweep, but we are also within an eyelash of being swept; and that's sometimes the way it goes when you are playing good teams."
"Overall, I thought we got really good relief pitching. I was really proud of the way we bounced back after losing game one and coming back and winning. Daughety was outstanding out of the bullpen, and we needed him to be outstanding. It was good to see Cole come in and get the save. He threw the ball well to get the final two outs. Santos was big for us and had a whole bunch of RBIs. I'm really proud for Thomas; he is coming on and swinging the bat well. We out-hit them in all three games, but we didn't make the play and make the pitch at the right times to finish the game off," Thompson said.
"We could schedule a lot easier and just beat the fool out of some folks, but we scheduled a top-10 team on the road. We played at a really nice facility at Abilene Christian and got beat. We will pick up the pieces and get it going and be ready [to] go Monday," Thompson said.
Howard 11, McLennan 10
McLennan 101 030 113 – 10 13 2
Howard 050 140 001 – 11 12 4
Logan Freeman, Grant Miller (5), Levi David (8), Payton Strambler (9) and Josh Breaux. Brandon Young, Ryan Williams (5), Bryant Jordan (7), Ryan McKay (9), Mason Hellums (9) and Reese O'Farrell. WP: Hellums; LP: David. Leading hitters – McLennan: Dylan Neuse (1-2, 2B), Griffin Paxton (1-4, HR, RBI), Josh Breaux (3-5, HR, 4 RBI), Keaton Milford (3-6, 3B, HR, RBI), Chase Sortor (1-3, HR, RBI) and Aidan Shepardson (2-4, RBI); Howard: Lance Russell (1-4, 2 RBI), Bryan Sturges (1-5, 2B, 3 RBI), Tristan Peterson (1-5, HR, RBI), Saul Garza (3-4, HR, RBI), Reese O'Farrell (2-4, 2 RBI) and Jaxon Williams (3-5, HR, 2 RBI). Record: 11-4.
Howard 5, McLennan 4
McLennan 010 002 1 – 4 11 0
Howard 001 000 4 – 5 8 2
Tristen Bayless, Alex DeLeon (3), Payton Strambler (7), Connor Heffron (7) and Nick Thornquist. Chandler Coates, Jacob Salim (7) and Saul Garza. WP: Salim; LP: Strambler. Leading hitters – McLennan: Dylan Neuse (2-4, 2B, RBI), Chase Sortor (2-4), Griffin Paxton (1-2, 2B, RBI), Thomas Santos (1-4, 2 RBI) and Aidan Shepardson (3-3, 2B); Howard: Bryan Sturges (2-4), Doug Facendo (1-2, RBI), Tristan Peterson (0-1, RBI), Nick Jodway (1-4, RBI) and Brett Cain (2-4, 2 RBI). Record: McLennan 11-5.
McLennan 9, Howard 5
McLennan 200 001 600 – 9 13 1
Howard 200 010 011 – 5 11 0
Jase Embry, Shane Daughety (3), Nick Urbantke (9), Daniel Cole (9) and Jackson Nichols. Denny Bentley, Tyler McKay (6), Jacob Stark (8) and Reese O'Farrell. WP: Daughety; LP: McKay; SV: Cole. Leading hitters – McLennan: Dylan Neuse (3-4), Aidan Shepardson (2-5, RBI), Josh Breaux (2-5, RBI), Chase Sortor (1-4, 2B), Thomas Santos (3-4, HR, 6 RBI) and Griffin Paxton (1-4, 2B); Howard: Lance Russell (4-5), Doug Facendo (1-5, RBI), Tristan Peterson (2-5, 2B, RBI), Brett Cain (1-4, 3B, RBI) and Reese O'Farrell (2-3, 2B). Record: McLennan 12-5.