Led by a rock-solid defense and a gritty performance from pitcher Rome Shubert, the Santa Fe Indians claimed Game 1 of their best-of-three Region III-5A quarterfinal series against the Barbers Hill Eagles, 2-1, on Thursday at the University of Houston’s Schroeder Park.
“The defense was outstanding,” head coach Ronnie Wulf said. “The line drives we caught at third, the ball Peewee (McDonald) caught in the outfield, and then Landon (Thompson) doubling the guy at second. The defense was just outstanding.”
In picking up the complete game win on a mound that gave him fits throughout the game, Shubert scattered five hits and two walks for one earned run with two strikeouts over seven innings.
“Rome was Rome,” Wulf said. “He got into a little bit of trouble, but he’s always able to work out of it. He did what he’s done for us all year long — basically one run or less a game.”
Santa Fe broke onto the scoreboard in the bottom of the first courtesy of a sky-high one-out solo home run from McDonald that just managed to clear the left field wall.
“I just felt like it was good contact and I was just running,” McDonald said. “I looked up to see where it was, and I see the kid just slamming his glove, and I was like, ‘home run?’”
Then, the Indians went ahead 2-0 in the bottom of the third on a two-out RBI single from Grant Pfaff. Albert Garza reached on a fielder’s choice, advanced to second base on a groundout, and raced all the way home on Pfaff’s bloop to shallow left field.
Barbers Hill got a run on the board in the top of the sixth, with River Orsak getting things started by getting hit by a pitch. Orsak stole second, and a Trevor Turnbough chopper through the left side of the infield put runners on the corners. Cameron Cauley then lifted an RBI sacrifice fly to right field. On a fly out to center field, Thompson threw out the runner at second for an inning-ending double play.
A pair of nice defensive plays in the fifth inning saved a run for each side.
In the top of the fifth, after Raithen Malone reached base on a one-out walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch, McDonald made a spectacular diving catch on a ball stroked to the right-center field gap to end the frame. In the bottom of the fifth, Colby Jones threw out a runner trying to score on a Pfaff single to left field to end the inning.
“I read it off the bat, and I just went for it,” McDonald said. “And I knew Landon had my back, so I just gave it my all, and I ended up with it.
Pfaff also made a couple of nice diving grabs on hard liners that led off the first and fourth innings, in addition to having a multi-hit game (2-for-3, one RBI).
The two teams are tentatively scheduled to resume the series at Schroeder Park with Game 2 set to start at 7 p.m. Friday.