BASEBALL: After overcoming deficits to move past Franklin, Academy challenges Whitney in area round
BRINGING IT: Academy junior left-handed pitcher John Tomasek earned the win in both of the Bumblebees' comeback victories against Franklin in last week's Class 3A bi-district playoff series at Bryan's Nutrabolt Stadium. He pitched the final two innings of Academy's 3-2 win on Friday and threw the final three innings of the Bees' 4-3 victory Saturday after they trailed 3-0 through five. District 19-3A No. 4 seed Academy (13-16) takes on No. 20-ranked Whitney (21-8) in a best-of-three area-round series that begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at Whitney. Game 2 is at 7 p.m. Friday at Belton's Tiger Field. If needed, Game 3 will be played at 4 p.m. Saturday at Lake Belton High School. (File photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
LITTLE RIVER-ACADEMY – The Academy baseball team overcame more than one deficit in its Class 3A bi-district playoff series last week against District 20-3A champion Franklin.
The No. 4 seed from 19-3A, the Bumblebees lost the opening game of the best-of-three series 12-2 in six innings. Academy trailed 2-1 the Lions in the sixth inning of Game 2 before scoring two runs and winning 3-2 to avoid a sweep. And last Saturday afternoon the Bees were down 3-0 after five innings in Game 3 at Bryan's Nutrabolt Stadium.
However, Academy exploded for four runs in the top of the sixth to seize the lead, then held on for a dramatic 4-3 victory that sent favored Franklin home and propelled the Bees (13-16) of third-year head coach Garrett Vail into the area round.
Academy's reward is a second-round clash with the No. 20-ranked Whitney Wildcats (21-8) in another best-of-three series. Game 1 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Whitney, and Game 2 will be played at 7 p.m. Friday at Belton High School's Tiger Field. If a third game is required, it will be played at 4 p.m. Saturday at Lake Belton High School.
The Academy-Whitney winner will advance to next week's Region III quarterfinals against the winner of the best-of-three series between 19-3A champion and No. 21-ranked Cameron Yoe (23-6) and 17-3A third seed Lorena (18-7-1).
Junior left-handed pitcher John Tomasek earned the victory in each of Academy's wins over Franklin. He pitched two innings in relief of sophomore right-hander Alex Lawton in Game 2, then the Bees' starting center fielder came in and threw three innings in relief of junior righty Blaine Rowlett in the series finale.
Sophomore first baseman Aric Hickman hit a two-run single in the sixth inning of Game 3 to get the Bees on the scoreboard, then Rowlett delivered a two-run, go-ahead single to put Academy up 4-3. In the seventh, Tomasek stranded a Lions runner at third base to end the game and seal the series victory.
All four playoff qualifiers from 19-3A won their opening-round series. Along with Academy's three-game victory against Franklin, Yoe swept Elkhart 9-0 and 10-1, runner-up Rogers swept Fairfield 9-6 and 14-0 and No. 3 seed Caldwell swept Groesbeck 10-0 and 5-4.
Whitney was the 17-3A runner-up to Troy (30-1), the state's top-ranked team. The Wildcats lost 11-2 and 12-0 against the Trojans, and their other league loss was 4-2 at West. Whitney beat Eustace 3-0 and 3-1 last week to sweep that bi-district series.