Barbers Hill broke out the big bats to the tune of four home runs as the Eagles soared to a 12-3 win over the Santa Fe Indians in Game 3 of their best-of-three Region III-5A quarterfinal baseball playoff series Saturday afternoon at R.S. Sterling High School.
The Eagles move on to the regional semifinals where Lake Creek awaits.
For the Indians, a so-called rebuilding season went about as far — if not much further — than anyone could have expected.
“I’m proud of them; what they did this year was unbelievable,” Santa Fe head baseball coach Ronnie Wulf said. “Having only two returning starters coming back and no pitching, we didn’t know how it was going to turn out, and these guys rose to the occasion. They fought every game all the way through to now.”
Santa Fe loses only four seniors — albeit all key contributors — from the roster: Albert Garza, Tripp Godnich, Kyle Fraser and Gaige Mitchell.
“They were kind of the nucleus,” Wulf said. “We’re going to miss all the seniors; they all played a part.”
With a large crop of underclassmen — including a junior trio of starting pitchers in Jacob Cyr, Brandon Vassallo and Haze Davidson — returning, Wulf said he hopes the experience they received will serve them well next season.
“They’ve seen what it takes to get here now, so we just have to work harder next year and keep moving forward,” Wulf said.
In the series-deciding game Saturday, Barbers Hill jumped out to a hot start with a four-run top of the first inning.
Brodey Williams crushed a three-run home run to dead center field with Cameron Cauley (leadoff walk) and Jace Martinez (reached on an error) on the base paths.
Davidson was able to retire the next two Eagles batters on groundouts, but Raithen Malone extended the inning with a walk to set up an RBI double scorched to left field by Blaine Huntley for the early 4-0 lead.
Santa Fe trimmed the Eagles’ lead in half in the bottom of the fourth, but Barbers Hill blew the game wide open with a five-run top of the fifth.
Ashton Lozano led off the bottom of the fourth with a double to left-center and advanced to third base on a fielding error to set up the Indians’ first run, which came on a one-out RBI single to left from Vassallo. Later, a bases-loaded RBI sacrifice fly from Jackson Stroud made the score 4-2.
But, Barbers Hill started the top of the fifth with its first five batters reaching base safely, which included a two-run home run to left-center from Cauley, Martinez going back-to-back with a solo home run, and Simon Larranaga sending a two-run home run ball screaming over the left field fence.
“We knew they had that kind of power, and we were hoping our pitching would be be able hold it down,” Wulf said. “When it was still 4-2 and we had a chance to score two more with a hit and tie it up, if that happens, maybe it’s a different game.”
The Eagles tacked on two more runs in the top of the sixth on an RBI single from Martinez and an RBI sac fly from Williams before logging their final run in the top of the seventh on an RBI sac fly from Hunter Mercer.
Santa Fe plated a run in the bottom of the seventh on a one-out RBI single to right from Garza that scored Mitchell, who walked in the previous at-bat and stole second.
Starter Brent Holdren (3.1 innings, four hits, two runs, one walk, three strikeouts) and Malone (3.2 innings, three hits, one run, one walk, five strikeouts) teamed up on the mound for Barbers Hill.
Cauley (2-for-4), Martinez (2-for-5) and Huntley (2-for-3) had multi-hit games for the Eagles, who totaled 10 base knocks.
Garza (2-for-4), Kyeler Thompson (2-for-4) and Vassallo (2-for-3) had multi-hit games for the Indians, accounting for six of the Indians seven total hits.