• Greg Wille

'WE NEEDED IT': Leopards rally for 8-7 win in 11 innings, then rip Cisco 10-3 for vital NTJCAC sweep


CLUTCH PERFORMER: Temple College sophomore left fielder Andre Jackson played a key role as the Leopards swept a conference doubleheader against Cisco on Wednesday at Danny Scott Sports Complex. In Game 1, his double sparked a three-run fourth inning and his run-scoring single in the ninth created a 7-7 tie before TC prevailed 8-7 in 11 innings. Jackson contributed an RBI single and scored a run as the Leopards (17-8, 2-4 NTJCAC) controlled the Wranglers 10-3 in Game 2. The teams meet again Saturday for a doubleheader in Cisco. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)




By GREG WILLE

TempleBeltonSports.com

gwille2@hot.rr.com


The Temple College baseball team entered Wednesday with 28 games remaining on its conference schedule, so the Leopards definitely were not in full panic mode.

But because TC carried in an 0-4 record in Northern Texas Junior College Athletic Conference play, the Leopards certainly had an air of desperation about them as they battled Cisco on a sunny, windswept afternoon at Danny Scott Sports Complex.

After Temple defeated Cisco 8-7 in an 11-inning, back-and-forth tussle and followed it with a dominant 10-3 victory for a much-needed doubleheader sweep, sophomore left fielder Andre Jackson described what he believed was the key difference between his Leopards and a Wranglers squad that came in with a 5-3 NTJCAC record.

“We wanted it more. We just dug deeper. We needed to win. We needed it. They wanted it, but we needed it,” said Jackson, who sparked Temple’s Game 1 comeback with a leadoff double in the fourth inning and kept the Leopards alive with a run-scoring, game-tying single in the ninth.

Temple erased deficits of 3-0, 4-3, 6-4 and 7-6 in Game 1, which the Leopards never led until they loaded the bases with no outs in the 11th inning and Hogan Heller drew a walk that forced in Joseph Redfield for their first conference win in a marathon duel that lasted almost 4 hours.

“You don’t ever want to get to the point where you’re having to come back each inning. But hey, just get up there and battle. That’s the big thing,” longtime Temple head coach Craig McMurtry said. “Guys get up there and just try to find a way to put the ball in play hard. You’ve just got to keep at it and don’t get down, which they didn’t.”

Conversely, TC was in control throughout Game 2, which was shortened to seven innings after the scheduled nine-inning opener required extra frames. Colby Christian’s two-run home run highlighted the Leopards’ four-run first, Travis Chestnut blasted two solo homers and freshman left-hander Dawson Tourney pitched six sharp innings to power the 10-3 victory.

Although Temple (17-8) still has plenty of ground to make up in the NTJCAC standings, the Leopards certainly feel much better about themselves than they did after North Central Texas surprisingly swept them in a conference-opening four-game series two weeks ago.

“These next two series are big just because you’re 0-4 and now all of a sudden you can’t get yourself in an 0-6 hole. You’ve got to get a couple of wins, if nothing else for confidence for the players that, ‘Hey, we can do this,’” McMurtry said. “I don’t want to say it was life and death (today) and ‘You’ve got to win,’ but obviously it’s really important to get in the win column just confidence-wise and to get that feel back of what we’re supposed to be able to do.”

The Leopards followed the 0-4 mark against North Central with their open week in the conference schedule, so they had extra time to stew about that winless record. That’s what made winning Wednesday’s games against Cisco (20-9, 5-5) so important for TC, according to Jackson.

“110 percent we needed that. We needed to bounce back,” he said. “I feel like the rest of the season, we’re going to play as if everything’s on the line, like it’s do-or-die at this point. We’ve just got to keep playing the way we do, play aggressive, keep swinging the bat and have our pitchers keep shutting them down with as many zeroes as possible. If we just keep playing as a team, we’ll be good. (It’s a) big team game.”

Cisco gained the advantage early in Game 1 against Temple freshman lefty Hudson Luce, a Texas Tech signee. In the top of the second inning, Bobby Serfass hit a long fly ball to center field and it rode the strong breeze over the tall wall for a two-run homer and a 2-0 Wranglers lead. It became 3-0 in the fourth when Serfass drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on Sam Pierce’s groundout.

Temple had four strikeouts in the first three innings against Samuel Mendez, a tall, slender righty from the Dominican Republic who featured a sharp-breaking slider. However, the Leopards finally got to Mendez in the fourth.


GOING WITH IT: Temple College sophomore Andre Jackson hits a pitch by Cisco's Samuel Mendez to the gap in right-center field for a leadoff double during the fourth inning of the Leopards' 8-7, 11-inning win in Wednesday's first game at Danny Scott Sports Complex. Jackson's hit fueled a three-run inning and he added a game-tying RBI single in the ninth. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)



Jackson ripped a leadoff double to the gap in right-center and scored when Holland product Zane Spinn lined a single through the right side for a 3-1 game. Chris Morrow drove in Spinn with a double down the line in right and later scored on Caleb Hill’s infield single for a 3-3 deadlock.

Cisco grabbed the lead right back in the fifth. Luce hit leadoff batter Blake Hubble with a pitch, then Will Pendergrass greeted reliever Davis Pratt with an RBI double to right-center for a 4-3 score. Purdue signee Pratt, who was making only his second appearance this season because of an arm ailment, did well to escape further damage.

Hard-throwing reliever Mason Bryant replaced Pratt during the sixth and Cisco loaded the bases with two outs, but shortstop Spinn skillfully made a sliding, backhanded stop of Colton Moore’s grounder in the hole and fired to an on-the-move Chestnut at second base for the inning-ending force on a close play.

Temple tied it at 4-4 in the sixth thanks to Morrow, a sturdy left-handed hitter who lofted Mendez’s final pitch of the game high to right-center and watched it ride the wind for a homer. It was the third of four hits in the opening game for first baseman Morrow.

“He’s got potential to hit the ball out of the park. He’s got the potential to go the other way,” McMurtry said about Morrow. “His big thing is sometimes he gets a little complacent up there and doesn’t swing. He needs to be a little bit more aggressive. Hey, when you get balls over the plate that you can drive, don’t sit there and look at it. He did a nice job today.”

After Bryant struck out two in a scoreless seventh, Temple had a prime opportunity to win the game in regulation. Hill’s one-out single and a two-out intentional walk to Redfield gave the Leopards runners on the corners, but Jackson lined out sharply to left and the game moved into extra innings.

The situation for Temple appeared bleak in the eighth after Moore rocked a two-run homer to left against Bryant to push Cisco back ahead at 6-4, but the Leopards again produced the necessary response.

Spinn led off the eighth with an infield single and raced to third on Morrow’s single to right. Raithen Malone’s single to right-center drove in Spinn for a 6-5 game, and Chestnut delivered a sacrifice fly to center to bring in pinch runner Kyle Gates for a 6-6 deadlock.

“We just stayed to our approach. We had a lot of hard-hit outs, but we kept hitting the ball hard and knew they were going to fall eventually, and when they did we kept building on it,” Jackson said. “We executed when it needed to be done. That’s the key.”

Cisco seized the lead for the final time at 7-6 in the ninth when Thomas Latham hit a leadoff single against lefty reliever Mason Brandenberger, advanced on Pierce’s bunt and scored on Micah Brown’s RBI single to right.

Hill led off TC’s ninth with a single and reached third with two outs on Redfield’s groundout. That set the stage for Jackson, who ripped a clutch RBI single to left – excitedly tossing his bat to the side – to get the Leopards back even at 7-7.

“Just trying to stick to my approach and keeping composure and not losing track of the whole objective, which is put it where they’re not, really,” Jackson said.

Said McMurtry about Jackson, who helped TC win 39 games last season: “Andre’s been swinging the bat pretty good. Like all the guys, he’s been hot and cold, but he’s done a good job here lately. He brings some energy.”

After Brandenberger (2-0) kept the Wranglers scoreless in the 10th and 11th innings, Temple made its decisive move. The speedy Redfield beat out an infield single to start the 11th against Titan Hayes, then Cisco failed to get an out on Jackson’s sacrifice bunt and Spinn’s well-placed bunt along the third base line went for a hit to load the bases with no outs.

Hayes went to a full count against freshman Heller but then missed low with a fastball to force in Redfield, giving the Leopards their first lead and more importantly the 8-7 win for their vital first conference victory.


SOUTHPAW SUCCESS: Temple College freshman left-hander Dawson Tourney delivers a pitch during the Leopards' 10-3 win over Cisco in Wednesday afternoon's doubleheader finale at Danny Scott Sports Complex. Tourney (3-1) allowed four hits and compiled six strikeouts in six innings as TC (17-8, 2-4 NTJCAC) earned the conference sweep. (Photo by Greg Wille, TempleBeltonSports.com)



The doubleheader’s seven-inning finale lacked the dramatic twists and turns of the opener, but that worked out favorably for Temple.

Tourney set the tone with a quick first inning that included one of the Californian’s six strikeouts, and the offense didn’t wait long to provide big-time run support.

Cisco righty Dave Johnson hit leadoff man Chestnut with a pitch in the first, and Christian – who struck out four times in Game 1 – pummeled a pitch into the netting in front of the scoreboard in left-center for a homer and a 2-0 advantage. Redfield then ripped a single and, after Jackson walked, scored on a double to right by fellow Sam Houston State signee Spinn. Morrow’s sacrifice fly to center drove in Jackson for a 4-0 lead.

After a frustrating 0-for-5 performance in Game 1, Texas A&M signee Chestnut answered with a productive finale. TC’s 5-foot-8, 155-pound second baseman led off the second by hammering a homer to the deepest part of left-center for a 5-0 game. He added another homer, his sixth this year, to left-center in the sixth and finished 3-for-3 with three RBI and four runs.

The Leopards’ four-run outburst in the fourth featured Chestnut’s RBI single to left, Christian’s run-scoring triple to left-center, Redfield’s sliced RBI double down the line in left and Jackson’s chopped RBI single to center for a 9-0 advantage.

Meanwhile, Tourney (3-1) allowed only one hit through four innings as he mixed a controlled fastball with an effective breaking ball. The only damage Cisco did against the southpaw came on a three-run homer by Pendergrass in the fifth.

Aided by diving catches from center fielder Redfield and left fielder Jackson, lefty Douglas Hendricks pitched a scoreless seventh to complete Temple’s important sweep.

The Leopards will travel to Cisco on Saturday for a doubleheader beginning at noon. Dash Albus and Carter Poulson are TC’s projected starting pitchers.

“You hope that you can get some momentum and guys feed off of a couple wins, but the teams we play in conference are a little bit tougher than some teams we play in non-conference,” said McMurtry, whose Leopards will challenge No. 18-ranked Grayson next week in a four-game series. “Hopefully the confidence gets a little better and guys get a little bit better feeling about themselves and understand what it takes to win.”

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