The Cardiac Jacks are back just in time for the baseball playoffs.
The Lumberjacks (6-5 in District 20-3A) clinched a playoff berth with a 9-5, 10-inning victory over host Central on Tuesday night. They play at home Friday against Hudson (8-3), with playoff positioning on the line.
After taking an early 3-0 lead, the Lumberjacks allowed Central to tie the game with a run in the fourth and two more in the fifth.
The game stayed knotted at 3 through nine innings, but Diboll came alive in 2013 playoff fashion in the top of the 10th – scoring 6 runs and then holding on for the win as Central scored two runs in the bottom of the inning.
As if the Diboll faithful didn’t have enough to worry about in the bottom of the ninth as their team was going eight innings without scoring, Michael Garcia provided a bit more tension as a fly ball drove him to the left field wall and the ball popped out of his glove, allowing Central’s Dillon McCarver to reach third base as the game-winning run. However, the defense tightened up as catcher Isaac Hernandez blocked a potential wild pitch that could have allowed the run to score. A grounder to Gunner Horton as second base provided the first out.
Then, to the approval of the fan base on both sides, Diboll Coach Edd Trotter elected to intentionally walk the next two batters, loading the bases. Reliever Christian Palacio was up to the task, getting a bunt fly-out and then going to full-count on the next batter before striking him out.
“That (the third out) felt good,” Garcia said after the game, admitting he was stressing a little. “I just had to trust the defense to get us out of the inning.”
Garcia was first up in the top of the 10th and finished putting the bobble behind him, bunting an infield single to begin the rally. Horton followed with a bunt, reaching on a fielder’s choice that didn’t catch Garcia at second. Palacio then bunted himself on to load the bases for Eric DeJesus.
DeJesus delivered with a 2-RBI single.
Following a pitching change, Cody Sanchez walked to load the bases, and Alex Aguilar reached on an error that scored the game-winning, third run of the inning. Thomas Lee then walked in a run before another pitching change.
Kevin Hurley Jr. drove a liner to right field for the first out of the inning, but the shot scored a run. Hernandez then hit into a fielder’s choice that scored Diboll’s final run. Another fielder’s choice ended the rally.
Central threatened again in the bottom of the inning, as Jarod Sprinkle hit a one-out single up the middle, and Josh Guidry doubled him to third. Consecutive errors by Horton and Lee got the Diboll fans’ blood pressure up again. But, with two runs across, DeJesus made a great play at shortstop to get the second out at second base, and Sanchez put a glove around a fly ball in center field that ended the game.
Palacio earned the win for the Jacks, relieving Aguilar in the fourth inning and pitching six full innings. He gave up two unearned runs on three hits and four walks. He struck out four, including the all-important final batter in the ninth.
“It was a fastball,” Palacio said of the full-count strikeout pitch. “I wasn’t worried about contact; the defense would be there.”
Aguilar pitched four solid innings, getting out of jams until the fifth when he gave up a triple to Guidry and singles to Dillon McCarver and Tyler Vinson put the score at 3-2. Palacio took the mound, and an error immediately loaded the bases. However, a flyout, a strikeout and groundout limited the Central rally to just a tie.
Aguilar, now playing third base, made made a run-saving play that ended another Central scoring threat in the sixth. Sanchez made a sliding catch on a sprint from center field to nearly right field in the seventh that could have set Central up for the game-winner. Garcia then put the glove around a flyout, and Palacio recorded a strikeout for his first of two consecutive three-up, three-down innings.
Diboll scored its first three runs in the first inning. Horton led off with a single past shortstop, and Palacio reached on an error on his bunt. DeJesus then hit a single that took a bad hop over the Central shortstop, scoring Horton. Sanchez singled to left, scoring Palacio and DeJesus.
Central scored its first run in the fourth inning.Logan Modisette hit a two-out single, and Luke McMillan followed with a single to center field, with Modisette scoring on a throwing error.