Mustangs steal their way to next round of playoffs

CRANE — Game 3 of the best-of-3 bi-district playoff between Sweetwater and Fabens was tied 6-6 in the top of the seventh inning on Saturday. The Mustangs had the go-ahead runner, Bray Amos, at third base with Shawn Campbell at bat and looking at a 2-2 count with two outs.But then, all of a sudden, Amos streaked for home as Fabens pitcher Eric Ochoa was still in his windup.Amos scored, Sweetwater was suddenly up 7-6, and all that was left was for Mus-tang pitcher Cole Maxwell to get three more outs.Maxwell had replaced starter Stephen May on the mound in the previous inning and walked his first three batters — the last two on 3-2 counts that allowed Fabens to finish a four-run rally and tie the game. But he was perfect after that. After striking out the last two hitters in the sixth to keep the game tied, he had a 1-2-3 seventh to preserve the win as Sweetwater ad-vanced to face Pampa in the area round of the playoffs starting Friday.Amos was inserted into the game as a pinch-runner after Greg Aiken led off the top of the seventh with a walk. He stole second, went to third on Kaleb Hoover’s single and two batters later, he headed home. “(Coach Roland Herrera) just told me to go,” he said after the game. “I just took off. I knew I had it.”Sweetwater, which was forced to a third game after losing 5-0 in Game 2 earlier Saturday, never trailed in the finale but nevertheless had trouble putting away the Wildcats. The Mustangs led 2-0 and 6-2, only to see Fabens rally both times. But Sweetwater was ultimately able to prevail .“This means a lot,” said Maxwell. “We’ve been playing together since we were 9- and 10-year-olds and playing travel ball.“To get to this point and win bi-district means a lot, but we’re not done yet.”“That was tough,” said Herrera, whose Mustangs (17-14) now face Pampa in another best-of-3 series with the opener set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at Lubbock Christian University.“I had noticed that their pitcher had a slow windup and so I sent Bray on a 2-2 count. It was a gamble I took, but it paid off.”Sweetwater jumped out on top with single runs in the second and third innings.Hoover walked, stole second and scored on James Clift’s double in the second, and Dylan Bennett walked and scored on a double by Sean Morrow in the third. Sweetwater then came up with four runs in the fourth after Fabens had tied it at 2. Clift led off the frame by ripping his second double, and scored when Campbell reach on an error. Bennett hit into a force play that scored Campbell, and Aiken doubled to score the final two runs.GAME 2: Fabens 5, Sweetwater 0After winning 5-4 in the opener Friday, Sweetwater saw its bid for a two-game sweep silenced by Ochoa in Saturday’s first game.Fabens led just 1-0 until breaking the game open in the fifth inning, when the Wildcats scored four times on just one hit.Two Sweetwater errors, as well as two walks, contributed to the damage. A bases-loaded double by Fabens’ Jesus Mendoza scored the first two runs to increase the lead to 3-0, and an error scored the last two. Only one of the five runs against Sweetwater pitcher J.P. Poe (5-4) was earned as he gave up just four hits in going the distance. Sweetwater had five errors in the game and also stranded nine runners in the contest, though the Mustangs did out-hit Fabens 5-4.Sweetwater’s first two hitters, Bennett and Amos, led off the game with singles and Hoover was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but the Mustangs failed to score and were frustrated by Ochoa the rest of the way.Fabens scored its initial run when Jacob Pacheco reached in the third inning on an error, stole second, then went to third on another error before scoring on a single by Jeffrey Lewis.On the bright side, Sweet-water turned three double plays defensively and Amos, starting at catcher for the first time this season, picked off a runner at first base.