ANOTHER GEM: Williams fires two-hitter, late Wagaman bunt scores run as Wildcats clip Kangaroos 1-0
ANOTHER MASTERPIECE: Temple senior right-handed pitcher Bryan Williams threw a two-hitter with nine strikeouts to help the Wildcats defeat Killeen 1-0 in Friday night's District 12-6A game at Hallford Field. In three district starts against Harker Heights, Belton and Killeen, Williams (5-2) has allowed only six hits and one run while pitching 20 innings and compiling 29 strikeouts. District co-leader Temple (15-6, 5-1) produced its only run in the sixth inning when a safety squeeze bunt by senior Aaron Wagaman allowed junior Johnny Donoso to score. Killeen sophomore righty Jack Mellon also pitched a complete game. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
Two things happen when Temple senior right-hander Bryan Williams pitches in District 12-6A baseball games: the Wildcats' opponents don't score many runs, and neither do the Wildcats.
Of course, Temple doesn't need to score many as long as Williams doesn't allow any.
Such was the case again Friday night at Hallford Field, where one week earlier Williams pitched a brilliant two-hitter with 10 strikeouts and the Wildcats scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning to seize a 2-0 victory over rival Belton.
Frustrated through five innings by Killeen sophomore righty Jack Mellon, Temple finally broke through in the sixth as senior Aaron Wagaman's safety squeeze bunt brought home junior Johnny Donoso for the lone run before Williams finished off the feisty Kangaroos with a three-strikeout seventh to secure a 1-0, white-knuckle win for the Wildcats to keep them tied for the 12-6A lead.
“My main mentality is that if we're struggling at the plate, just throw it in there and let our defense work, and play to the best of my ability for my team,” Williams (5-2) said after pitching his second shutout in eight days and his third consecutive two-hit complete game in district. “Through the later innings, when we huddled up on the mound, I just told them, 'We're going to figure this out. We're gonna scrap through it.'”
Beginning with his two-hitter with 10 strikeouts in a 1-0 loss at Harker Heights on March 19, Williams has has permitted only one run and six hits while pitching 20 innings and racking up 29 strikeouts.
“Bryan is a kid whose work ethic is unbelievable,” Temple third-year head coach Dallas Robertson said about Williams, who retired his final 14 batters, eight on strikeouts. “His arm strength has increased definitely since last year – (helped by) a lot of bullpens. The thing he's showed, especially in the Belton game, is his grit. He's a kid who will take the ball and say, 'I got it.' It's his demeanor.”
And Williams has had to be at the top of his game, because the Wildcats (15-6 overall, 5-1 in 12-6A) haven't generated much offense to support him. Donoso's sixth-inning RBI triple was Temple's only hit against Belton, and the junior right fielder again played a key role in the Wildcats' sixth against Mellon – who allowed four singles in a complete game – and the youthful, pesky team from Killeen (3-17, 2-4).
The offensive firepower that Temple demonstrated Tuesday in its 17-6, five-inning win at Killeen Shoemaker was nowhere to be found against the Kangaroos on a cool, windy evening, so Robertson – a Killeen graduate whose defense turned in an error-free performance – decided to employ small-ball tactics to finally push his Wildcats over the top.
Donoso chopped an infield single to lead off the sixth, stole second base, advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Williams and scored when Mellon (2-4) had no choice but to throw to first on Wagaman's well-executed safety squeeze bunt that he angled toward the first base line.
“Our philosophy of hitting is that when (struggles) happen, we're going to start laying bunts down. So we executed our squeeze and got it in there in the sixth inning,” Robertson said. “We bunted a guy to second, got him to third and squeezed him in. The safety squeeze has been very effective for us in district. Bryan was throwing well, so let's just get one (run) and get out of here.
“Killeen played tough, just like I knew they would. If you look at the district, they've been doing that to people. They've got a young team, and they are growing.”
IN TOTAL CONTROL: Temple senior right-hander Bryan Williams delivers a pitch to sophomore catcher Xavier Padilla during the Wildcats' 1-0 win over Killeen in a District 12-6A game Friday evening at Hallford Field. Williams (5-2) pitched a two-hit shutout at home for the second time in eight days and finished with nine strikeouts, and his sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the sixth inning helped lead to the game's only run as 12-6A co-leader Temple (15-6, 5-1) staved off the Kangaroos (3-17, 2-4). (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Killeen second-year head coach Donald Trcka was pleased with the competitiveness and poise of his Kangaroos, who have 12-6A wins against Killeen Ellison and Shoemaker and played league co-leader Harker Heights close in a 4-2 loss Tuesday.
“We're playing with five freshmen and three sophomores starting right now. We're a young team, but they're coming around and they're playing really well,” Trcka said. “We've just got to hit the ball a little better.”
Mellon matched Williams through five scoreless innings, stranding Temple runners at third base in the first, second and fifth frames. He notched five strikeouts and allowed two singles each to Donoso and senior first baseman Isaiah Fach, walked two batters and hit one.
“That guy was on. He was good,” Robertson said about Mellon. “He was throwing to the outside corner and he was banging it, and we looked at it too many times. We tried to make an adjustment and crowd the plate and take it away from him, but he kept it there and would throw it in on us. His curveball was effective and it changed up his speeds. He definitely mixed it up pretty well and got us off-balance.”
After Williams worked around Rodrick Norman's one-out single in the top of the first, Mellon had to perform an escape act during Temple's first time at bat.
Leadoff batter Xavier Padilla's ground ball turned into a two-base throwing error on freshman shortstop Norman. Mellon struck out Donoso but threw a wild pitch that sent Padilla to third with one out. However, Mellon struck out Williams looking with an outside fastball and retired Wagaman on a soft comebacker.
Burly sophomore Connor Beeman ripped a single to left field to begin Killeen's second, but he tried to steal second and was thrown out by sophomore catcher Padilla. A similar situation occurred in the third, when Roos freshman Bryce Prince drew a leadoff walk but was cut down trying to steal second by an accurate Padilla throw, aided by the athletic tag of sophomore second baseman Issac Ramos.
“Early, we were trying to be aggressive and trying to get an extra base, things like that,” Trcka said.
RIGHT BACK AT YOU: Temple senior first baseman Isaiah Fach (20) prepares to connect for a sharp single up the middle that almost hit Killeen sophomore pitcher Jack Mellon during the second inning of the host Wildcats' 1-0 victory over the Kangaroos on Friday night at Hallford Field. Fach and junior right fielder Johnny Donoso hit two singles apiece as Temple remained tied for the District 12-6A lead with Belton and Harker Heights at 5-1. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
Fach led off Temple's second by smoking a single that almost hit Mellon, whose cap fell to the mound dirt as the ball sizzled past him into center field. Fach advanced to second on a Ramos bunt and took third on junior Matthew McDonald's groundout, but Mellon avoided damage when Naeten Mitchell grounded out to third.
Unlike many of his teammates, the 5-foot-8, 163-pound Williams is not also a football player for Temple. However, he displayed his own type of physical and mental toughness during the top of the third.
With one out, Killeen freshman Cade Searcy popped up a sacrifice bunt attempt in foul territory, approximately 15 feet from the first base line. Williams sprinted off the mound and made a fully outstretched, diving try but couldn't quite reach the ball. He landed hard on his chest and ribs and was in obvious discomfort after his next several pitches, bending at the waist as he tried to gather himself.
“It was mainly hurting in my upper chest and lower ribs, but I had to fight through it and get myself out of that inning and just keep pushing,” Williams said. “No matter how much pain I'm in, I've still got a defense behind me and I've still got a team that I need to play my butt off for. It started to feel better after a while.”
Said Robertson, who let Williams deal with the injury on his own instead of walking out to check on the senior workhorse: “I don't baby Bryan. He's our catcher (when he's not pitching), and those are the things that happen to him.”
Searcy then reached base on a fielder's-choice grounder and stole second and third with two outs, but Norman swung through a high fastball by Williams to keep the game scoreless.
Nobody knew it at that juncture, but the Roos never again threatened to score against Williams. In fact, they never put another runner on base. Williams was perfect in the final four innings, highlighted by striking out the side in the fifth and seventh as he combined well-placed fastballs – many of them elevated and some out of the strike zone – with a sharp curveball.
“It's actually been a big pitch for me,” Williams said about his high fastball. “When I get ahead in the count and I feel comfortable with my fastball, I'm going to try throwing it up. If they chase it, they chase it. If they don't, so what. I'll find me another pitch that hopefully they chase or just look at.”
Said Trcka: “Hat's off to (Williams). He's done a really good job this year. We were trying to get our guys to hit the ball the other way, so that was our approach. Early we hit the ball really well; we just hit it at somebody. We struggled later at the plate, but overall we put the ball in play and hit it fairly well tonight.”
Temple made a bid to take the lead in the fifth, when a Mellon pitch glanced off Mitchell's helmet with one out before Mellon's wild pickoff throw to first skidded into foul territory, sending speedy sophomore Mitchell to third on the two-base error. But Mellon struck out sophomore center fielder Mikal Harrison-Pilot looking with an outside fastball and got out of it when Padilla grounded out to third.
“Jack pitched really well tonight, kept the ball around the plate and got his curveball over,” Trcka said. “I thought he did a great job. He's pitched really well for us this year.”
However, Temple finally got to Mellon in the sixth, the same inning in which the Wildcats broke through against Belton a week earlier. Donoso hit a high chopper between third and shortstop and easily beat it out for a leadoff single, then stole second before Williams, the No. 3 batter, put down a successful sacrifice bunt to move Donoso to third with one out.
“Bunting's a big part our program, so if we can lay one down, we have a high percentage of getting one run through,” Williams said. “And that's all we look at, one run an inning.”
Temple's ensuing safety squeeze bunt didn't surprise Trcka and Killeen, but it was an effective weapon for the Wildcats nonetheless. Wagaman, who alternates pitching starts with Williams, pushed a bunt toward the first base line, at which point Donoso started sprinting home. By the time the charging Mellon fielded the ball, he had no chance to throw out the fleet-footed Donoso at the plate and instead fired to first to get Wagaman, who recorded the game's lone RBI for a 1-0 Temple advantage.
“Coach Robertson's been doing a lot of safety squeezing, and we kind of knew it was coming and tried to defend it,” Trcka said. “But my pitcher's momentum was taking him forward, so we just had to get the out (at first).”
Fach singled sharply to left before Mellon walked Ramos and pinch hitter David Rios to load the bases with two outs, but Mellon's curveball struck out Mitchell to keep it a 1-0 game.
That minimal amount of support proved sufficient for Williams, who in the Killeen seventh struck out Mellon and Tanner Shain with high fastballs before Beeman swung through a thigh-high fastball on the outside corner, completing another Williams masterpiece and Temple shutout victory.
“Bryan doesn't panic. He's a gamer. You can rely on him,” Robertson said, adding: “I've told them from the beginning of the year that pitching and defense is going to carry us through, and we'll get the runs when we need them.”
After Temple practices on Saturday to work out its hitting difficulties, the Wildcats will complete the first half of their 12-6A schedule next Tuesday with a 7 p.m. game at fourth-place Copperas Cove (3-3). Killeen will host Belton at 7 p.m. next Tuesday.
HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
Temple 1, Killeen 0
Killeen 000 000 0 – 0 2 2
Temple 000 001 X – 1 4 0
K: Jack Mellon and Kaden King. T: Bryan Williams and Xavier Padilla. W – Williams (5-2). L – Mellon (2-4).
Highlights – T: Williams nine strikeouts in second consecutive shutout win in district play (retired final 14 batters and struck out seven of final nine batters); Johnny Donoso 2-for-3, run; Isaiah Fach 2-for-3; Aaron Wagaman run-scoring sacrifice bunt in sixth; Padilla threw out two runners attempting to steal; K: Mellon five strikeouts in complete game; Connor Beeman and Rodrick Norman 1-for-3 each; Cade Searcy two stolen bases.
Records – Killeen 3-17 overall, 2-4 in District 12-6A; Temple 15-6, 5-1.
Notes – Temple shares the 12-6A lead with Belton and Harker Heights at 5-1; Temple plays at Copperas Cove at 7 p.m. next Tuesday; Killeen hosts Belton at 7 p.m. next Tuesday.