5A REGION III SEMIFINAL: Sixth-inning homer puts Bulldogs one down in series

Published 8:41 pm Wednesday, May 22, 2019

HOUSTON — Well, Nederland’s been in this situation before.

For the third time in four playoff series, the Bulldogs find themselves down one game after a sixth-inning Zach Wall home run lifted Texas 10th-ranked Magnolia West to a 2-1 victory Wednesday in a best-of-three 5A Region III semifinal round at the University of Houston’s Schroeder Park.

Game 2 is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Schroeder. Should Nederland (22-12-2) win, Game 3 will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the same location.

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“I think they’re ready to come back right now,” Bulldogs coach Bryan Spell said. “We’ve been here before. We didn’t have to say a whole lot. I think if there was any doubt, people know we have a tough baseball team, and we’re going to battle until the final out tomorrow. It just didn’t go our way tonight.”

Nederland has come from 1-0 down in a series to beat Galveston Ball (bi-district) and Port Neches-Groves (5A Region III quarterfinal). The Bulldogs swept Angleton in the area round.

West (27-5) is 7-0 in the playoffs, one year after missing the postseason.

Wall’s homer, his sixth of the season and the Mustangs’ 19th, preserved a win for LSU commit Connor Phillips (12-3), who fanned nine and held the Bulldogs to three hits and walking four. Wall said he last homered with three weeks remaining in the regular season before Wednesday.

“I’ve been trying to long-swing everything, so I tried hit a gap to stay short, I barreled it up and carried it out of here,” Wall said. “I mean, it was good to get up on the board, late innings, and hopefully we’ll come back tomorrow and get on top.”

Robert Revels, the Mustangs’ likely Game 2 starter, earned the save and lowered his 1.4 ERA.

“We matched them pitch for pitch, but they made one more play than we did,” Spell said. “We’ll bounce back, no doubt about it.”

Conner Kemp (8-5) posted four strikeouts and held West to three hits in a complete-game loss. West came into the game hitting .369 on the season, and Kemp gave up only singles to Dylan Van Wicklen and Broday Szako in the first two innings before Wall’s smash.

A throwing error by the catcher in the top of the fifth inning allowed Brian Davila to break the proverbial ice. Davila led off the frame with a double to left and scored on a dropped third strike when the catcher misfired to first on Landon Hiltz’s at-bat.

Nederland left six on base, including three in scoring position. The Bulldogs posed a threat against Phillips in the second following singles by Wade Butler and Rene Cunningham. Phillips then retired the next three.

“LSU don’t miss very often,” Spell said. “He was tough to solve. Our kids did an outstanding job. I thought Landon set the tone early. We knew [Phillips] was good, but we wanted to compete, and our kids did a great job competing with that guy.”

Butler was also stranded at third in the fourth.

West left four runners on base, with Van Wicklen (first inning) and Szako (second) in scoring position. Kemp retired Phillips and Van Wicklen to start the West sixth before walking Carson Carpenter to bring up clean-up hitter Wall.

Noah Gregory (9-2, 2.18 ERA) will start Game 2 on the mound for the Bulldogs.

“I don’t think there will be any secrets,” Spell said. “We will get after it, and so will they.”

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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