The Diboll Lumberjacks are one series away from the state baseball tournament.
The Lumberjacks will play Silsbee this week for the Region III-3A title, with the winner advancing to the state semifinals at Dell Field in Round Rock. Game 1 is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at the University of Houston. Game 2 is set for 3 p.m. Saturday at Rice University, with Game 3, if needed, starting 30 minutes after the end of Game 2.
The Lumberjacks advanced to the Region III final by sweeping the Huffman-Hargrave Falcons in a best-of-three series Friday and Saturday.
Following a 5-4 extra-inning win Friday night, the Lumberjacks closed out the semifinal series Saturday afternoon with a 6-3 victory at Adam Dunn Field in New Caney.
Diboll junior Eric DeJesus earned the victory Saturday, scattering seven hits over seven innings. He gave up just one run through the first six innings, but things got a little scary in the top of the seventh as Huffman scored two runs.
“I was getting a little tired,” DeJesus said. “I told myself to take a deep breath and throw strikes. Let the defense work.”
DeJesus walked the first batter in the top of the seventh, and Diblll third baseman Alex Aguilar caught a pop fly in foul territory for the first out. A single to center field was followed by a fly out to Alex Grimaldo in right field. Then, DeJesus loaded the bases with another walk.
An error-free Diboll defense to that point had a hiccup, as miscommunication on a fly ball allowed two runs to score. However, second baseman Christian “Speedy” Palacio made up for that by sprinting over into foul territory to catch a fly for the final out.
The Lumberjacks scored their first three runs in the bottom of the third. Gunner Horton hit a single up the middle and Isaac Hernandez was hit by a pitch. Then, with two outs, DeJesus singled up the middle to load the bases. Horton and Michael Garcia (the pinch runner for catcher Isaac Hernandez) scored on wild pitches to give Diboll a 2-1 lead. Jay Lowe then singled to left field to plate Antonio Pantoja (the courtesy runner for DeJesus).
Diboll scored another three runs in the fifth. Hernandez led off with a single, and DeJesus singled him to second with one out. Both runners advanced via steals, and with two outs Palacio singled in Hernandez to make it 4-1. Aguilar was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Grimaldo picked up an RBI via a walk. Castillo then picked up an RBI as he was hit by a pitch, giving Diboll a 6-1 lead.
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.