For once, the pitching-heavy Bulldogs felt the sting of a sterling pitching performance thrown against them. On Friday at Langham Creek Field in Houston, Montgomery’s Collin Garrett baffled Nederland’s hitters for six innings, as the Bears beat Nederland 3-1 in Game 1 of a Class 4A regional quarterfinal playoff series.
The right-hander allowed just three Bulldog base runners through six and only allowed one batter past first base. Garrett struck out six and allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings while giving up three hits, one run and two walks.
“Two good baseball teams played today,” Nederland head coach Cody Robbins said. “I felt like we weren’t aggressive enough at the plate in the middle innings, but our kids are good about always coming back. It’s about as evenly matched as two teams can be.”
Garrett walked the first batter of the game, sophomore left fielder Colton Broussard, who was then sacrificed over to second base. However, Garrett then retired 13 of the next 14 batters he faced.
The only hit Garrett allowed before the seventh inning was a single to mound opponent Mitchell Sanderson in the bottom of the second. Until the bottom of the seventh, Nederland only had four balls that left the infield in 22 plate appearances.
“He’s a good pitcher,”Robbins said. “I give him credit. But, I think we took a lot of fastballs we could have put swings on. Would those hits be outs or home runs? I don’t know. But, if you don’t swing at them, you can’t know. We have to get back to the basics and be more aggressive"
All those caveats were necessary because Nederland nearly rallied to take the lead in the bottom of the seventh. After a leadoff strikeout, the Bulldogs quickly chased Garrett with three consecutive hits. Aaron Sampere, Sanderson and Brandon Self all slapped singles into the outfield to load the bases.
Montgomery brought in left-hander Ty Boland, who started for the Bears in the state semifinals, in relief of Garrett. Boland quickly gave up another single to center fielder Gabe Nevala, which scored pinch-runner Tyler Spell and made it 3-1 Montgomery.
“Right there, if we get one swing of the bat, you tie it up,” Robbins said. “I had no doubt in my mind that when we got going, we were going to win the game. I never doubt this team. Our guys feel that they’re going to win every game we go into. It’s why they respond well.”
However, Boland settled down at that point and got a strikeout and a grounder to shortstop for the save.
Nederland’s inability to hit Garrett wasted another good start from Sanderson. The right-hander threw a complete game, allowing eight hits, three runs and one walk while striking out four.
Sanderson worked out of a few jams in the game, but Montgomery was able to score off the first. With runners on the corners and one out in the top of the fifth, Montgomery third baseman Will Fox hit a fly ball to center field that almost reached the wall.
Nevala tracked the ball to make a great over-the-shoulder catch for the inning’s second out, but it allowed Bears right fielder Jared Eaton to score from third and make it 1-0 Montgomery.
“Hats off to Mitchell, he threw a great game,” Robbins said. “I thought he made some great pitches that they just got hits off of. It’s not like they’re wearing out the gaps or anything.”
The Bears tacked on two more runs in the top of the fifth on an RBI single from Jimmy Dominick and a wild pitch that let Eaton score from third.
Montgomery and Nederland are playing their third three-game playoff series since 1988. In the first, Montgomery won Game 1 and then swept the series. In the second, Nederland won and then dropped the series in three games.
The Bulldogs are hoping for a third outcome Saturday. Game 2 is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Clear Lake. Robbins did not name a starter for the game, but it is likely between right-handers Jared Ramoin and Carson Raines. Montgomery will likely throw Boland.
Montgomery 3, Nederland 1
Montgomery 001 020 0 -- 3 8 0
Nederland 000 000 1 -- 1 4 1
Collin Garrett, Ty Boland (7) and Cody Conn; Mitchell Sanderson and Brian Feltman. W – Garrett. L – Sanderson. S – Boland.
Leading hitters: NEDERLAND – Sanderson 2-3; Brandon Self 1-2, BB; Gabe Nevala 1-3, RBI. MONTGOMERY – Garrett Hrozek 3-4, 2B, run scored; Jared Eaton 2-3, two runs scored.
Records: Nederland (26-6); Montgomery (29-5).
Next: Game 2, Saturday, 3 p.m. at Clear Lake