After being the last school to make an appearance in its Wood Bat Classic at Newman Park, the host Sweetwater baseball team quickly made a strong im-pression Friday with back-to-back shutout wins.
The Mustangs opened by crushing Post 14-0 in their first game, then held off Wall 2-0 to complete the sweep. The victories pushed Sweetwater (4-3-1) over the .500 mark for the first time this season, though they still had two more games on Saturday to wrap up their annual three-day event.
As the scores suggest, the pitching was dominant as first Brandon Howell and then Stephen May hurled complete-game shutouts.
Howell (1-1) gave up just one hit, a first-inning single, against Post in a game that ended after 4 1/2 innings due to the 10-run mercy rule. He struck out four and issued just one walk. Howell’s teammates helped him by turning double plays that ended both the second and third innings.
Post’s only serious threat came in the third, when two errors put runners at the corners. But May — playing right field — caught a flyball for the second out and threw to catcher Sean Morrow to nail Post’s base-runner from third base.
Sweetwater then came to the plate and blew the game open by scoring eight runs in its half of the third inning to turn a slender 2-0 lead into a 10-0 advantage. The Mustangs had six hits in the inning — a leadoff triple by Morrow, a double by Ryan Linebaugh and singles by May, Greg Aiken, Dylan Bennett, Cole Maxwell. Both Linebaugh and Maxwell had two RBI in the inning, while May and Aiken also had RBI hits as Sweetwater sent 12 battters to the plate.
Bennett, James Clift and May had RBI singles in the fourth inning to make the score 13-0, and Linebaugh drove in the Mustangs’ final run with a sacrifice fly.
Sweetwater had the same number of walks (9) as hits and struck out just once against Post. The Antelopes had pulled off an amazing rally to beat Clyde 17-13 on Thursday evening after trailing 12-2 at one point, but they were unable to do much against the Mustangs. The only player to get a hit off Howell, Vance Blair, was quickly gunned down by Morrow when he tried to steal second base.
May (2-0) struck out seven and walked three against Wall in his second straight shutout. His first came six days earlier at the San Angelo Lake View tournament in a 14-0, four-inning win over Coahoma.
Against Wall, he threw a seven-inning gem and got just enough offensive help to earn the win. May gave up three hits and escaped a few jams, the most serious one in the seventh inning while protecting a 2-0 lead.
Sweetwater finished the game with just six hits, but the Mustangs also stranded 11 runners. It was a 0-0 contest until Sweetwater scored single runs in both the fourth and fifth innings.
Then the Mustangs survived a wild seventh-inning finish to beat a Wall team that they had defeated them, 4-3, when the teams met at Lake View’s tournament.
Wall’s first two hitters in the seventh reached on a walk and error. The Hawks’ hitters, however, soon got into trouble on the basepaths as both were erased thanks to a bizarre double play that involved May, in-fielders Maxwell, Bennett, Clift and Aiken and finally Howell in right field, who ran in to take a throw and complete the double play.
Bit the inning wasn’t over yet as the next hitter walked, followed by yet another error to put runners at first and second. However, Bennett ended the suspense by fielding a ground ball at shortstop and stepping on second in time to force the runner coming from first base and seal the victory.
Sweetwater left a pair of runners on in each of the first three innings, but finally scored when James Clift reached on an infield single to score Maxwell, who also singled, in the fourth.
Morrow reached on an error to start the fifth, went to second on Linebaugh’s sacrifice and made the score 2-0 when he scored on Howell’s single.
Morrow had two of Sweetwater’s six hits and Linebaugh also hit safely. The Mustangs were scheduled to end the round-robin tournament by playing Clyde and Ranger Junior College’s JV on Saturday.