CRANE — Fort Hancock may have ended Forsan's baseball season Saturday, but if you made the trek to Crane to watch the best-of-three, regional quarterfinal series you'd doubtlessly agree it was worth the price of admission.
The Buffaloes roared back after an 8-0 Game One loss on Friday to pummel the Mustangs 11-0 in the second outing Saturday. But in a hard-fought Game Three, Fort Hancock edged Forsan, 9-8 to move on to the Region 1-2A semifinals.
Disappointed with the loss — as any coach would be — Forsan Manager Jason Phillips still enjoyed being a part of such an exciting duel.
“It was a lot of fun,” Phillips said. “ Even though we lost, it was one of the most fun games we've ever played and it was one of the most fun games I've ever coached. The kids played as hard and with as much heart as I've ever seen. It was two good teams getting after it.”
Ahead 6-0 in Saturday's first game, Forsan's Kaleb Stanley picked up a two-out, bases loaded triple which accounted for three RBI. Stanley then scored on an error during Tyler Evans' at-bat to give the Buffs a 10-0 lead.
Trevor Burchett drew a walk and Marcus Cervantes recorded an infield single, sending plating Matthew Mims for the 11th Forsan run.
In the top-half of the next inning, Burchett — who struck out six and issued only a walk in a complete-game performance — gave up a single, but a diving catch by Polo Morin in the outfield left the Mustang base runner stranded as the Buffaloes claimed a run-rule victory.
Each team earned a shut-out to force a Game Three, but the third installment of the affair would come with some drama.
Similar to Game One, Forsan trailed 2-0 heading into the bottom of the first inning.
Undaunted, Cervantes reached on an error, Clayton Galloway walked and Blaise Coffman loaded the bases with a single. Garrett Kligora knotted it up at 2-2 with a two-RBI double. Dillon Bagnall picked up a RBI and reached on an error for the go-ahead run.
Stanley had an infield single, Mims walked to load the bases yet again, with two outs, Evans smacked a base hit which was good for two RBI as the Buffaloes took a 5-2 lead.
Fort Hancock tied it up when Manny Grejada — who victimized Forsan in Game One from the mound and then with a grand slam home run — recorded RBI Nos. 5, 6 and 7 with a three-run blast in the top of the third. The Mustangs extended their lead to 8-5 as the Buffaloes' offense struggled to manufacture runs, despite having the bases loaded bottom of the fourth.
A lead-off walk by Burchett and a RBI base hit by Galloway finally gave Forsan a spark. With one out, Coffman took a base on balls and Bagnall reached on an error to load the bases with Buffs once more.
Stanley came through again, tying it up at 8-8 with a two-run single before the inning ended with a strikeout by Evans.
Fort Hancock led off the top of the seventh with a base hit. Grejada was walked intentionally and with runners on the corners, a passed ball allowed a run to score.
The Buffs fought all the way to the last out, however.
Burchett led the bottom of the seventh off with a triple, quickly putting the tying run in scoring position. Cervantes and Galloway both popped out and Coffman was walked on purpose.
Kligora stepped into the batters box swinging a hot bat, but was beaned to load the bases yet again with Forsan runners.
Next up was Bagnall, who had a chance to be a hero. He put the ball in play, but in a tough-luck circumstance, the ball was well-fielded by the Mustangs for the out.
“When Trevor led off with a triple and we had the meat of our lineup set to bat, I had a feeling we'd at least tie it up,” Phillips explained. “It came down to the last out. It was heartbreaking to lose that way, but both teams played hard. We made plays when we needed to, but unfortunately, they did, too.”
It was a see-saw battle with both teams squandering opportunities — 25 runners were left stranded in Game Three alone.
The Buffaloes finished with an overall record of 18-12.
In the eight years Forsan has had a baseball program, it has established itself as a marquee Class 1A organization — in part because of Phillips' coaching, but he credits the student-athletes for most of the success.
With several seniors departing, Phillips had a few words to say about their time on his roster.
“We will miss those seniors,” Phillips said. “ A couple of them have started for three years. At the end of every year, we talk about the positive things the kids have done. This group is no different. It's Forsan's eighth year playing baseball. I consider it one of the best 1A programs in the state.”
Phillips — who also serves as head football coach and athletic director at FHS — expects another quality season next year.
“We're losing some good kids,” he added. “But we will have some good players coming back and a good group of young kids who are exciting to watch coming up. It's been a lot of fun. It's a blessing to coach at Forsan, because the kids will give you everything they have.”
CLYDE — In Head Softball Coach Jill Bradshaw's rookie year at Coahoma, she took the Bulldogettes all the way to the regional semifinal round of the playoffs.
Unfortunately, that's where the successful season came to a close.
In Game One of a best-of-three series with Comanche on Friday, things got out of hand in the second inning. The Lady Indians piled on nine runs and ended up winning by a score of 14-3.
Hoping to rebound in Game Two, the Bulldogettes' offense was stymied and Coahoma was eliminated after falling 9-1.
Hopes of playing for the Class 2A state championship in Austin may have eluded Bradshaw and her squad, but with the perennially strong program Coahoma boasts, coupled with the early success Bradshaw has enjoyed, next year could be even more successful.