CRANE — Despite some missed opportunities, the Sweetwater baseball team got its first playoff series in nine years off to a success-ful start Friday.
But the Mustangs’ 5-4 bi-district win over Fabens in Game 1 of their best-of-3 series was suspenseful right down to the end.
Sweetwater stranded 10 runners in the contest, nine of them in the last four in-nings, but still was able to rally from a brief 3-2 defi-cit — and guarantee itself two chances Saturday at Crane High School’s field to advance to the Class 3A area playoffs next week.
Kaleb Hoover had RBI singles in the first and third innings for the Mustangs (16-13), who led 2-0 early in the contest and regained the lead at 5-3 by scoring a pair of runs in the fourth on just one hit, a single by Dylan Bennett.
Hoover then secured the win defensively after the Wildcats threatened to take back the lead in the top of the seventh inning.
Harvey Manzano singled, moved to third on a ground ball out and error and scored on another single by Jeffrey Lewis to cut Sweetwater’s lead to 5-4, putting runners at first and second.
Fabens’ No. 4 hitter, Jesus Mendoza, then sent a well-hit line drive to centerfield. But Hoover was able to read it well coming off the bat, and he made the catch for the final out.
Though he gave up 11 hits, Sweetwater starting pitcher James Clift (7-2) hurled a complete seven-inning game for the Mustangs and earned the victory. He had five strikeouts and no walks and worked out of several jams with the help of his defense, which has turned five double plays in its last two games.
Sweetwater, which finished the game with 10 hits, went ahead 2-0 in the first inning. Greg Aiken scored the first run when he doubled and came home on back-to-back singles by Sean Morrow and Hoover. A balk later alllowed Mor-row’s courtesy runner, Bray Amos, to score and make it 2-0.
Fabens scored three runs in the second inning on three hits, an error and a forceout to take a 3-2 lead. But Sweetwater tied it up in the bottom of the inning on Hoover’s bases-loaded single that scored Stephen May, who began the rally with a single and moved to third on a single by Aiken and walk to Morrow.
In the fourth, Sweetwater scored what proved to be the winning runs. Cole Maxwell walked, went to second on Dylan Bennett’s single and scored to give the Mustangs a 4-3 lead when May laid down a bunt and was safe on an error.
An intentional walk to Aiken loaded the bases, but Morrow hit into a force play that allowed Bennett to score for a 5-3 advantage.