HOUSTON — So, so close.
The Diboll Lumberjacks fell just short of their state-tournament bid, dropping two games to the Silsbee Tigers on Saturday afternoon, June 1, at Reckling Park on the Rice University campus.
The Lumberjacks took the lead in the best-of-three Region III Class-3A series with a 5-3 victory Thursday night, May 30, at Cougar Field on the University of Houston campus. Heading into Saturday, they were just one win away from their first trip to the state tournament.
Diboll lost 3-0 in Game 2 of the series, unable to come-from-behind as it had numerous times in the playoffs.
In Game 3, the Lumberjacks again found themselves down – this time 1-0 in the second inning. And, just as things were looking up in the third — with Gunner Hornton doubling, Isaac Hernandez walking and Tony Hernandez singling to load the bases — Diboll couldn’t put runners across.
Isaac Hernandez helped keep the Tigers at bay in the bottom of the third by throwing out a runner stealing second, and starting pitcher Alex Aguilar struck out his fifth batter.
Diboll managed to take the lead in the fourth inning. Aguilar doubled to left and Alex Grimaldo singled him in to tie the score. Grimaldo stole second, and Horton singled him in for a 2-1 Diboll lead.
Silsbee tied the game in the bottom of the inning, benefitting from a couple of errors. In the middle of those errors, though, shortstop Eric DeJesus made a diving stop of a grounder, checked the runner at third and fired to first for the second out.
Silsbee took a 4-2 lead in the sixth on a two-run homer. Then, with on out, Dustin Fisher was brought to the mound and induced a double play.
But, as they had all season, the Lumberjacks got back in the game in the seventh. Horton singled and Isaac Hernandez doubled.
The Tigers weren’t taking any chances and brought their ace, Tyler Powell, in to pitch … for the third consecutive game in the series. It didn’t matter to Tony Hernandez, who singled in Horton; Isaac Hernandez tied the game, scoring on an error during the play. However, Powell got the next two batters on strikeouts.
Silsbee’s first batter up tripled, and Grimaldo was brought in to try to stave off the loss, but the first batter he faced singled in the series-winning run.
Diboll also had its chances in Game 2, loading the bases with one out in the sixth inning. The Tigers brought Powell into the game and he got the Tigers out of the jam with a force out at home and a strikeout.
DeJesus pitched well for Diboll, tossing a complete game, but was also hurt by errors.
In the first game of the series on Friday, the Lumberjacks – down 3-1 — scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning and held on for a 5-3 victory.
Senior Sergio Castillo isn’t known as a long-ball hitter, but he picks his spots. His first came on Senior Night in a win over Carthage that helped Diboll finish third in the district. His second came Friday night – a solo blast for an insurance run in the sixth.
“I was just looking for a base hit,” Castillo said. “It felt amazing.”
Then all he had to do was go back out onto the mound and close out another complete game. Following a Diboll fielding error, Castillo got a groundout to second base, a strikeout and a fly out to center field.
Things looked a little bleak for Diboll in the early going, as Silsbee scored three unearned runs in the top of the second inning.
However, Castillo came through in the next two innings, facing just six batters.
“I was struggling at first. But, I was telling myself to keep my head up. We scored that run and I got my confidence up,” Castillo said.
Diboll got on the board in the fourth. Senior Jay Lowe battled through several fouls to reach first on a walk. He went to second on a ground out and hustled home from there on an Alex Aguilar single. Senior Alex Grimaldo walked and Castillo sac-bunted them each up a base. A strikeout stranded the runners, though.
Silsbee threatened in the fifth via a rope to centerfield and a ground up the middle. However, a 6-4-3 (Eric DeJesus-to-Gunner Horton-to-Jay Lowe) double play ended the threat.
Lowe led off the Diboll sixth with a single, sliding head first into the base to beat out the throw. Christian Palacio then walked and both runners advanced on a balk. Following a fly out, Grimaldo tied the game with a double down the third base line. Grimaldo stole second base and scored the game-winner on a poorly thrown ball to third.
HOUSTON — So, so close.