It only took one pitch.
With one out in the top of the 10th, Nederland shortstop Brandon Self lined the first pitch he saw into center field for a single. Catcher Brian Feltman, on second base, sprinted towards the plate and was waived immediately by Nederland head coach Cody Robbins.
Feltman just beat the throw home, making a great slide to plant a hand on home plate and give the Bulldogs a 4-3 victory over Little Cypress-Mauriceville at Metreyeon Delahoussaye Stadium Friday in District 20-4A play.
With the win and Vidor’s loss to Lumberton Friday, Nederland clinched one of the district’s four playoff spots. The Bulldogs have a five game lead over both fifth-place teams, Livingston and Vidor, with four games left to play.
“I felt comfortable since Day 1 with this team,” Robbins said. “Our guys go into every game expecting to win it. I feel like every game that we’re in, we can win it. That’s the confidence I have in them right now. That was a great job by Brandon Self.”
Self was one of many heroes for Nederland on Friday. The pitching staff picked up the Bulldogs time and again, as starter Carson Raines and reliever Jared Ramoin combined for 20 strikeouts in 10 innings of work.
Raines started the game, but labored for much of his four innings of work. The senior right-hander threw over 80 pitches in his four innings and very nearly equaled his pitch total from a seven-inning victory over Vidor last week.
Luckily, Ramoin was up to the challenge, shutting down LC-M inning after inning to give Nederland a chance for the victory.
“For me, it was just about keeping my head up,” Ramoin said. “I know my team behind me can always perform. I can always count on them to score a run for me. All I needed to do is go out there and shut them out for a few innings. It was going to happen eventually. I’m just glad it happened sooner rather than later.”
After entering the game in the top of the fifth, Ramoin retired 12 straight batters before giving up a leadoff single in the top of the ninth. The right-hander struck out 10 in 6 innings, allowing three hits and no runs while walking none to pick up the victory.
There’s an old baseball adage that pitching and defense win games. On Friday, pitching and baserunning carried the Bulldogs, as Nederland tied it up on some great baserunning by Michael Shaw in the bottom of the fourth.
Shaw walked with one out in the inning. The speedy second baseman quickly put pressure on LC-M’s pitcher, forcing a pickoff throw that went wild past the first baseman and almost to the fence. Shaw scampered to second, made the turn and took off for third. The ensuing LC-M throw to third also was off the mark, allowing a sliding Shaw to stand up before racing home to tie the game at 3-3.
“At the beginning of the year, I told them we were going to be aggressive on the bases and I feel like we have been,” Robbins said. “That was kind of a fluke run. Michael can wheel. At that moment, my mind flashed back to Port Neches, because the same thing happened. In a game like this, you’re going to gamble a little. Some times you win, some times you lose.”
Six innings later, Nederland got a chance to set up Self’s heroics with another LC-M error. Feltman reached first base on a throwing error by the LC-M shortstop with one out in the 10th inning. Feltman then stole second uncontested before Ramoin was intentionally walked, putting runners on first and second.
That’s when Self came to the plate and gave Nederland its sixth straight victory and another guaranteed playoff appearance.
Self finished the game 2 for 5 with an RBI. Teammate Seth Barrow was 1 for 2 with two walks, a stolen base, a run scored and was hit by a pitch. Jordan Wood went 2 for 4 with a walk and an RBI.
Nederland (19-3, 9-1) will host Port Neches-Groves for the second installment of Mid-County Madness at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Nederland 4, Little Cypress-Mauriceville 3
LC-M 003 000 000 0 — 3 6 4
Nederland 110 100 000 1 — 4 6 2
James Swan, Brandon Humphrey (4) and Jacob Martin; Carson Raines, Jared Ramoin (5) and Brian Feltman. W — Ramoin. L — Humphrey.
Leading hitters: NEDERLAND — Seth Barrow 1-2, 2 BB, SB, run scored, HBP; Jordan Wood 2-4, RBI, BB; Brandon Self 2-5, GW RBI. LC-M — Humphrey 2-5, RBI; Dylan Gruber 1-5, run scored.
Records: Nederland (19-3, 9-1); LC-M (5-5)
Next: Nederland hosts Port Neches-Groves, 7 p.m. Tuesday.