By Michael Finnegan / Special Contributor
After it was just a few outs away from being swept, Jesuit is now on the brink of its first state baseball tournament.
The Rangers staged a dramatic rally at Wright Field on Friday to force a third game against Lake Travis, then clinched the series with a 1-0 shutout on Saturday night in Mumford.
Jesuit advances to meet Conroe Oak Ridge next weekend in the Class 6A Region II final, with the winner earning a berth in the state tournament. It will be the first appearance in the regional final for the Rangers (33-3-2) in program history.
In Game 3 against the Cavaliers, Kyle Muller worked out of several jams to throw a five-hit shutout, and pinch-runner Alex Lengyel scored the game’s only run on a wild pitch in the sixth inning.
Game 2 on Friday also had plenty of drama, as well as considerably more offense. On the brink of elimination, Jesuit used a seven-run sixth inning to beat Lake Travis 9-6.
“We haven’t faced much adversity all season long,” said Jesuit head coach Brian Jones. “But when we have, we’ve stayed calm and on this team there’s just a belief even when we’ve been down.”
Down 5-2 heading into the bottom of the sixth inning, Jesuit’s bats erupted. The Rangers started the inning with three consecutive hits, and tied the score 5-5 after a wild pitch and an RBI singles by Austin Sheahan and Cameron Dobbs.
Jesuit finally regained the lead after Angelo Winnings scored on another wild pitch. Dobbs was then singled home by Darius Hill, who later crossed home on a double by Muller. Nic Ready’s single scored Muller.
“Hitting is contagious,” Jones said. “I’m not clairvoyant by any means, but I had a gut feeling after those first few hits in that sixth inning that we were going to keep it going.”
Earlier, Jesuit scored twice in the first inning. After a leadoff double by Dobbs and a Mark Ready walk, Muller smacked a line-drive double to score both runners as the Rangers took a 2-0 lead.
The Cavaliers (25-9-1) rallied with two outs in the top of second to score three runs on four hits, taking a 3-2 advantage into the third inning.
“After [Thursday’s] game, I knew they had strong bats,” said Jones, referring to a 3-2 win by Lake Travis in the series opener in Austin. “I had a feeling that early 2-0 lead would not hold up.”
In the third inning, the Cavaliers capitalized on two bloop singles with two outs off J.J. Montenegro, who relieved starting pitcher Jacob Palisch, to score two more runs and extend their lead to 5-2.
Montenegro settled in and pitched three scoreless innings, but the Rangers were running out of time before coming through in the clutch.