By Richard Nelson — firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW CANEY — Alex Aguilar hit a solo homerun in the top of the eighth inning and the Diboll Lumberjacks survived the bottom of the inning to take a 5-4 victory over the Huffman-Hargrave Falcons in Game 1 of the Region III semifinals at Adam Dunn Field.
Game 2 is set for 2 p.m. Saturday at the same venue, and Game 3, if necessary, will start 30 minutes following the end of Game 2.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” said Aguilar, a Diboll sophomore. “I just wanted to get a base hit, nothing big. But, then I got a good hold of it. “
His shot went over the left field wall at the urging of the fans on the Diboll side that overflowed the bleachers into stand-room-only and on down the left field fence line.
New Caney’s starting pitcher, senior Cody Carver, struck out the next two batters to limit the damage, but it ended up being enough.
Diboll starter Sergio Castillo pitched all eight innings as well and earned the win. The senior struck out 12 batters – with No. 12 the final out of the game with two men on.
Castillo gave up a total of six hits, but five of them came in the first three innings.
“I usually get going toward the end of the game,” Castillo said. “Tonight I got my confidence back up after we scored some runs.”
The Falcons took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, and increased that lead to 4-0 in the third inning when they scored three runs on a walk, a bunt single, a single to left and two errors.
However, Diboll got within a run in the top of the fourth.
Diboll sophomore Christian “Speedy” Palacio beat out the first of two bunt singles and a double by Aguilar moved him to third. Palacio got the Lumberjacks on the board when he scored on a wild pitch. Senior Alex Grimaldo – who doubled earlier in the game — then walked and Senior Sergio Castillo was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Diboll sophomore Gunner Horton hung in through a two-strike count and hit a blooper down the right field line that scored Aguilar and Grimaldo.
Carver worked himself out of his funk – that included seven straight balls – by striking out the next two batters and getting out of the inning.
Castillo started to heat up in the fourth, getting the Falcons to go down in order with two strikeouts and a fly-out.
The Lumberjacks tied up the game in the top of the fifth inning. Palacio hit a two-out bunt single. He stole second and was singled home by Aguilar.
Castillo continued to roll, striking out two batters in the fifth and striking out the side in the sixth. He allowed two base runners in the sixth and seventh inning, but kept things under control with some good play in the field.