After escaping a bases-loaded jam in the top of the sixth and scoring the go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning, the chances of Sweetwater’s baseball team getting into the Class 3A playoffs were looking good here Friday night.
But a 3-2 lead evaporated when visiting Big Spring came up with three runs in the top of the seventh, and the Steers held on for a 5-3 win at Newman Park to bring a heartbreaking end to the Mustangs’ season.
Big Spring (4-4) secured the No. 3 berth from District 5-3A with the victory and will join Wylie (7-1) and Snyder (5-3) in the playoffs that begin in early May. The Steers never led until the final inning against Sweet-water (2-6, 9-13-1), which came into Friday’s game needing a win to pull into a third-place tie with Big Spring and force a play-in game to determine the district’s final playoff berth.
Sweetwater jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning off Big Spring pitcher Adam Franco. The Mustangs loaded the bases on singles by Willie Norman and Greg Aiken and a walk to Ryan Linebaugh. Nor-man scored when Franco was called for a balk, and Linebaugh came home on a passed ball. The Steers came back to tie it 2-2 with single tallies in the second and third innings against Sweetwater’s James Clift, but both pitchers soon set-tled down and it stayed 2-2 until the sixth.
Big Spring used two in-field singles and a catcher’s interference call to load the bases in the top of the in-ning until Clift induced a fly ball out to end the threat.
Sweetwater then took a 3-2 lead when Sean Mor-row singled, went to second on Clift’s sacrifice and scored on an RBI single by Brandon Howell. But Big Spring spoiled any thoughts of a postgame celebration.
Karsten Knudson led off with a double, was balked to third and scored on Brett Brorman’s one-out single to tie the game. After a walk and a strikeout, Max Pappajohn ripped a double to score what proved to be the winning runs after Franco returned to the mound and retired Sweetwater in order.
Clift allowed just eight hits in 6.2 innings, with five strikeouts and three walks.
“Everybody knew what was on the line,” said coach Roland Herrera. “I thought we played hard, but we had a few little breakdowns that they scored on. It was a good, clean ball game.”