FULL SPEED AHEAD: After sweeping Duncanville, No. 6 Belton charges into area-round battle vs. Sachse
Updated: May 12, 2021
DEALING: Belton senior pitcher Brady Shadrick carries an 11-0 record into the sixth-ranked Tigers' Class 6A area-round playoff series against Garland Sachse. Game 1 is at 7 p.m. Thursday at Tiger Field, then Sachse's Mustangs (17-12-1) will host Game 2 at 1 p.m. Saturday. If needed, Game 3 will begin 30 minutes after the completion of Game 2. District 12-6A champion Belton (25-3-1) swept bi-district foe Duncanville, while 9-6A runner-up Sachse posted a first-round sweep by beating Tyler Legacy 4-3 (in 11 innings) and 3-1. Head coach Mark Krueger's Tigers are riding a 12-game winning streak. (File photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)
By GREG WILLE
BELTON – The Belton Tigers won their final 10 District 12-6A games, then swept their series against Duncanville last weekend in the bi-district round of the Class 6A state baseball playoffs.
Riding a wave of positive momentum, No. 6-ranked Belton (25-3-1) now charges into the area round for a best-of-three series against Garland Sachse (17-12-1).
Game 1 is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at Belton's Tiger Field, then the scene will shift to Sachse for Game 2 at 1 p.m. Saturday. If needed, Game 3 will be played at Sachse 30 minutes after the completion of Game 2.
The winner between 12-6A champion Belton and 9-6A runner-up Sachse will advance to next week's Region II quarterfinals against 11-6A champion Mansfield (19-11-1) or 10-6A runner-up Rockwall-Heath (28-8-1), which is No. 6 in the most recent Diamond Pro/Texas High School Baseball 6A state rankings. Belton is No. 6 in the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association state rankings and No. 11 in the Diamond Pro/THSB state rankings.
The Tigers of fifth-year head coach Mark Krueger are undefeated since their 2-0 loss at rival Temple on March 26, their lone setback during a 13-1 march to the league title. Belton is the last 12-6A team remaining in the playoffs after Harker Heights, Killeen Ellison and Copperas Cove all lost bi-district series.
Coach Chris Burrow's Sachse Mustangs, who placed second to Wylie in 9-6A, defeated Tyler Legacy 4-3 in 11 innings at home and 3-1 in Tyler to sweep the first-round series.
Belton beat Duncanville 8-0 in last Friday's series opener at Tiger Field, where junior right-hander TJ Johnson pitched 6 2/3 strong innings before reaching his pitch limit. Senior right-hander Brady Shadrick recorded the final out to seal the shutout as the Tigers earned their first postseason victory since 2018.
The Tigers had a much more difficult challenge when the series resumed Saturday in Duncanville.
A run-scoring single by junior third baseman Josh Westbrook gave Belton a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning, and Shadrick kept the Panthers scoreless through five innings. However, Duncanville – shut out in the first 12 innings of the series – came alive to score two runs in the sixth and seize a 2-1 lead, forcing the Tigers to come up with at least one run in their final at-bat to avoid having the series pushed to a deciding Game 3 at Duncanville.
With its back against the proverbial wall, Belton produced much more than one run.
The Tigers exploded for six runs in the seventh, creating a 7-2 advantage. Junior left fielder Aaron Bain's RBI single tied the game 2-2, then senior shortstop Ben Jones, an East Texas Baptist commitment, hit a three-run home run for a 5-2 lead. An RBI triple by senior catcher and Mary Hardin-Baylor commitment Cooper Babcock made it 6-5 before designated hitter Jacob Estrada added an RBI single for a 7-2 lead.
Duncanville got within 7-3 against Shadrick in the bottom of the seventh and had the bases loaded with two outs, bringing the potential tying run to the plate. But Shadrick (11-0), a Texas-Arlington track and field commitment, got a groundout to escape the threat and complete the Tigers' series sweep. He scattered nine hits.
Senior left-handed pitcher Jason Bonnett (7-1) threw a five-inning perfect game in Belton's 10-0 victory over Killeen on April 27, but the Tigers did not have to use him as they swept Duncanville.