By Sean Shapiro / Special Contributor
ROUND ROCK — For a moment, Jesuit’s season was saved in the right field corner at Dell Diamond.
But one inning later, Cypress Ranch countered and took advantage of the same part of the ballpark in a 2-1 win on Friday that spoiled the Rangers’ first trip to the UIL state tournament.
Jesuit had tied the game in the bottom of the sixth after Darius Hill tripled down the right-field line — aided by the deep 325-foot wall in right field — giving the center fielder a chance to score on Nic Ready’s sacrifice fly one batter later.
But in the top of the seventh, Cypress Ranch took advantage of the same dimensions at the minor-league venue.
Zeke Bear hit a hard ground ball that bounced off the first base bag and skittered all the way to the fence, and Jesuit right fielder Kyle Muller stumbled, allowing the Mustang third baseman to reach third.
Two batters later, Cy Ranch scored the game-winning run on bunt by Masen Hibbeler, which brought home hard-charging pinch runner Logan Thibodeaux.
“It’s hard to defend a suicide squeeze, even when you know it’s coming like that,” Jesuit head coach Brian Jones said.
Runs were at a premium in a pitcher’s duel between Riley Gossett and Jesuit’s Harrison Folk. Gossett limited Jesuit to four hits and struck out eight. Folk only yielded five hits and two runs in the final start of his high school career.
“Harrison is a bulldog. He’s not the most physically imposing guy, but he gets the job done,” Jones said. “Really proud of what he was able to do throughout this season.”
Neither pitcher blinked for the first three innings, and very few balls left the infield.
Gossett struck out three of the first nine hitters, while the rest were retired on groundouts or caught stealing. Folk worked around a runner in both the first and second innings, and then retired the side in order on groundouts in the third.
The Mustangs (30-6) then found the game’s first offensive spark in the top of the fourth inning. Elijah MacNamee doubled, and advanced on sacrifice bunt by Marshall Skinner. He then scored on a sacrifice fly by Bear.
From there pitching and defense took control, until the teams traded triples and runs late. It still wrapped up the best season for the Rangers (35-4-2) since Jesuit joined the UIL in 2003.
“It was a well-played game by both teams,” Jones said. “That’s a tough spot. We get the run [to tie], but then they came right back and did a nice job.”