ALVIN – Riding the momentum of their comeback win the night before, a fired up Friendswood Mustangs squad beat district rival Santa Fe, 3-2, on Saturday in Alvin to advance to the Region III-4A semifinals.
Friendswood first baseman Walker Williams personified the Mustangs’ nail-biting three-game series, struggling at the plate in the first two games before breaking out Saturday with two runs batted in, including knocking in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fifth.
“I had been struggling in the postseason, but to be able to step up and help my teammates feels good,” Williams said.
After Santa Fe tied the game at 2 in the top of the fifth on a David Reyna leadoff solo home run, Williams drove in second baseman Jacob Gwynne, who led off the inning with a walk, on a sacrifice fly. Gwynne was moved to third base after left fielder Lael Lockhart legged out a bunt and center fielder Bryan Fowler bunted both runners over a base.
With his team up 1-0 in the bottom of the third, Williams cracked an RBI double to break out of his slump. Williams drove in Lockhart, who reached on a single and was 3-for-3 in the game.
Finally getting ahead
In the first two games of the series, the only time Friendswood held a lead against Santa Fe was after Friday’s walk-off game winner.
The Mustangs changed that trend right away Saturday.
Lockhart led off the bottom of the first with a single and was moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Fowler. After a fly out, third baseman Drew Barba put Friends-wood on top, 1-0, with an RBI single.
Right from the beginning of the game, Friendswood was noticeably more fired up. Mustangs head coach Charlie Taylor said Friday’s come-from-behind extra-inning win definitely lit a fire under his players.
“It was a continuation from last night, I would say,” Taylor said. “They knew what the situation was today, and they came out knowing it was going to be another battle. It went 10 long innings (Friday). It could have gone either way then, and it could have gone either way (Saturday).”
With the do-or-die playoff series hanging in the balance with the score knotted at 2-2, both Friendswood and Santa Fe brought back their Game 1 starters returned in the fifth inning to keep their teams in the game.
Friendswood’s Ryan Shetter entered the game following Reyna’s game-tying home run and pitched two innings with no hits, no runs and no walks with one batter reaching on an error and three strikeouts in picking up the win.
Santa Fe’s Brandon Holder was equally impressive in relief, pitching 12/3 innings with no earned runs on no hits and one walk with three strikeouts.
Friendswood starting pitcher Daniel Cooley, the fifth different pitcher used by the Mustangs in the series, threw five innings with two earned runs on two hits and four walks with three strikeouts.
“Daniel hadn’t been pitching in our rotation much since tournament time, and he came in (Saturday) and stepped up and showed what his capabilities are,” Taylor said. “He did a great job.”
Santa Fe starter Neumann gave up three runs on five hits and one walk with four strikeouts.
Friendswood, the last Galveston County team still alive in the playoffs, will face Brenham in the regional semifinal round of the state playoffs. The dates, times and locations of the series had not been decided before Saturday evening.