BASEBALL: Three-run third, Kemp’s 10 Ks give Bulldogs sweep of Indians

Published 10:03 pm Thursday, March 29, 2018

NEDERLAND — Landon Hiltz might have been due for a big hit in Nederland’s series with Port Neches-Groves.

The leadoff hitter scored two runs in Tuesday’s 6-5 win at PNG, but did not collect a hit. Two days later, he delivered one of his biggest line drives of the season.

His two-run double capped off a three-run rally in the fifth inning, and Conner Kemp tossed 10 strikeouts in the Bulldogs’ 3-2 win for the long-awaited two-game sweep of their archrivals for sole possession of first place in District 22-5A.

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“We came into this thinking — you gotta think we’re going to win,” Kemp said. “We just worked hard, fought hard, and it worked out in our favor.”

Nederland pitcher Conner Kemp fires a pitch. (I.C. Murrell/The News)

The left-hander held the Indians to two earned runs on three hits in 6 2/3 innings.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him when he’s not ready — knock on wood,” Nederland coach Bryan Spell said. “He’s a special player. His brother [Chase, now a Lamar freshman] was the same way. There’s something about the Kemps. They’re great competitors and they love the big moment.”

Alan Underwood went from first base to the mound and, in just one pitch, got leadoff Austin Bost to fly out to second baseman Adam Roccaforte for the save.

The Bulldogs had not beaten the Indians in at least six tries. PNG, the defending 5A state champion, had won 31 straight district games before the week.

“We’re scrappy,” Kemp said. “We’re going to fight you to the end, that’s for sure, and do whatever it takes to win.”

The go-ahead double was Hiltz’s eighth of the season. Batting .514 going into this week, he was 1 for 3 Thursday after going 0 for 4 in Port Neches.

Nederland loaded the bases in the fifth with a Case Babino single and back-to-back walks by Alex Ortiz and Wade Butler with one out. Kyler Bertrand hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Babino, bringing up Hiltz.

Brandon Petix, PNG’s starting lefty, struck out five and allowed the two hits in a complete-game loss. He was one batter above the minimum through four innings, issuing a walk in the second.

The Indians led 2-0 thanks to Holden Lane’s one-run single in the first and Carson Roccaforte’s sacrifice fielder’s choice in the second. Josh Hranicky (double) and Cameron Stansbury lined the other PNG hits.

Spell was hoping the Bulldogs didn’t experience a hangover from Tuesday’s victory. Instead, the Easter weekend just got a little sweeter in his clubhouse.

“We’re going to enjoy this for the Easter weekend and celebrate the meaning of what it is,” he said. “We try to remind our kids some things are bigger than baseball, and this weekend’s one of them.”

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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