AC Athletics/Gary Stallard
GRAND PRAIRIE – To beat a team – in a tournament setting, no less – to which they'd lost four out of six in the regular season, the Angelina College Roadrunners were going to have to play nearly flawless baseball.
They were as close to perfect as any team can get, pounding Panola College 9-1 in eight innings in Sunday's second-round of the Region XIV Conference Tournament in Grand Prairie.
Starting pitcher Grant Cox pitched the full eight innings, allowing just five hits and a single run (that on a wild pitch) to shut down the Ponies and keep the 'Runners in the tournament's winners' bracket.
In addition to Cox's performance, AC benefited from all-around execution both defensively and offensively. The infield turned three double plays to help Cox out of the few mini-jams in which he found himself, and the outfield made every play. Left fielder Aaron Bowley made one of the most spectacular plays of the entire season, running down a ball in foul territory and crashing into – and over – the wall for a big out in the fifth inning. Cox then managed to end the Ponies' innings with strikeouts in each of the final three frames.
The offense did its job taking pressure off Cox early. AC scored a pair of runs in the first inning on a Josh Elvir two-run double. The 'Runners added two more in the second on the game's most bizarre play: With runners on first and third, Evian Benjamin dropped the third AC bunt of the inning. The Ponies caught the runner off third in a rundown for an out, but the throw to second to catch Benjamin sailed into centerfield, allowing Benjamin to touch all three bags and the plate for a 4-0 lead.
Elvir, Bowley and Christian Leonard drove in runs in the fifth for a 7-0 lead, Jacob Finke scored on a wild pitch in the seventh to make it 8-1 and then Finke capped the win with a walk-off solo homer – extending his single-season record to 17 – in the eighth. Blake Lazarine finished his game with three hits in five trips to the plate.