KATY – For a team that some preseason projections had barely scratching into the postseason, the Friendswood Mustangs already found themselves in an unlikely spot in the fourth round of the state playoffs.
“They went well above our expectations,” Mustangs head coach Charlie Taylor said. “For a team that was expected to be in the fourth spot (in district), to finish in second place and be in the fourth round of the playoffs with 16 teams left in the state of Texas, we’re very proud of these guys.”
For a large chunk of Friday’s second game of the regional semifinal best-of-three series against Brenham, the Mustangs found themselves in an even more unlikely position — leading the state’s ninth-ranked 4A club.
A late charge by the Cubs, though, dashed the prospects of a winner-take-all Game 3, which would have been played immediately after Game 2, as Brenham topped Friendswood, 6-5, in eight innings to advance to the regional finals.
Hanging on to a 5-3 lead heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, Brenham’s Rayne Richard hit an RBI double and Dylan Lester tied the game with an RBI single. Both hits came with the Cubs down to their final out.
In the bottom of the eighth, Brenham again rallied with two outs in the inning to score the game’s winning run. Third baseman Ryan Newman walked on four straight pitches, and relief pitcher Teddy Hoffman nearly ended the game in dramatic fashion, crushing a pitch over the center field fence.
However, a balk was called on Friendswood relief pitcher Garrett Cragin, sending Hoffman to first base instead. That set up a walk-off base hit shot into right field by designated hitter Dakota Brewton to end the game.
Led by right fielder Lael Lockhart, who went 4-for-5 with four singles, the Mustangs managed to outhit Brenham 11-10.
However, it was the small missteps — such as two shortstop errors that led to Brenham’s first run of the game in the bottom of the first or base running miscues that hindered scoring opportunities, that proved to be the difference.
After falling behind 1-0 in the bottom of the first and striking out seven times in the first three innings, the Mustangs’ bats sprung to life in the top of the fourth, where they rallied to plate all five of their runs in the game.
Designated hitter Ryan Bertelsman led off the inning with a single and was moved to second base on a Hunter Kirkland sacrifice bunt. Left fielder Carson Kaufman tied the game with an RBI single. Kaufman reached second base on a wild pitch, but was then picked off for the second out of the inning.
Shortstop Carter Gwynne singled, second baseman Jacob Gwynne walked and Lockhart singled to load the bases. Center fielder Bryan Fowler then cleared the bases with a clutch two-out, three-RBI double to left-center field to put the Mustangs up, 4-1.
First baseman Walker Williams reached base after a pop-up to shortstop was misplayed, and third baseman Drew Barba knocked in Fowler with a single to put Friendswood up, 5-1, and keep the rally going.
Bertelsman reached base for the second time in the inning on a walk, but the bases were left loaded after Kirkland popped out.
It was the second time the Mustangs left the sacks packed in the game, but, unlike in the top of the first, Friendswood was able to come away with some runs.
Brenham fired back with two runs in the bottom of the fourth on a Blake Wellman leadoff solo home run and a sacrifice fly by shortstop Jacob Stegent before eventually overtaking Friendswood in the later innings.