ALICE — The pace was set early in Friday’s area round elimination game between Pleasanton and Alice.
Alice (17-15) beat Pleasanton (25-9) 6-1 thanks to an early barrage against sophomore starting pitcher Tanner Hollis. The Coyotes started the game with a leadoff triple from Kaleb Aguilar before Cash Benavidez drove in his courtesy runner, Matt Ortiz, the very next at-bat. That sparked a three-run inning where Alice sent seven to the plate.
“I wasn’t scared because they punched our kids and I knew we were going to fight back,” Head Coach Lance Standley said. “That’s what we did. I feel like they got lucky. We were hitting balls right at them and we just kept battling.”
Pleasanton was held hitless in the final four frames. Of those 12 outs, eight were either groundouts or flyouts. The final out of the season was a lined shot by senior Auston Gillespie that Alice right fielder Eric Cuellar laid out for in a full stretch. It left the eighth baserunner on for the Eagles.
“At first, I was like, ‘Dude, that’s awesome. That’s a great way to end your high school career, with extra bases,’” Gillespie said. “But, we played a good team. They made great plays. I can’t say I’m surprised they made that play.”
Hollis would take the loss after surrendering six runs on 10 hits with one strikeout in three innings. His counterpart, Alice’s Isai Campos, pitched all seven innings, allowing the lone run on four hits with eight strikeouts.
The Eagles knew they needed to deliver the same quality of play at the plate to match the ability of Alice’s ace.
“Their pitcher, he was consistent the whole game,” senior shortstop Cole Wiechring said. “His offspeed was there. We put up a fight, but we just couldn’t hit the gaps. They found gaps and we didn’t. It’s just the way the cards fell.”
Pleasanton played a flawless game in terms of errors. The Eagles didn’t commit an error while the Coyotes committed two. Alice’s errors just didn’t lead to extra bases.
“We made zero errors today and they made two. That should tell you they had the balls falling and we didn’t,” Wiechring added.
Hollis delivered the only run with his RBI single in the third inning. That cut the deficit to 3-1 at the time before Alice responded with another three-run inning in the bottom of the third.
Senior pitcher Roman Cuevas had 1 2/3 innings of hitless relief on Friday. His goal was to keep moving the line so the Eagles could have a chance to make a comeback.
“My mindset was just I’m here for the team and they’re here for me,” Cuevas said. “I’m going to do my job and do my best for them. All I was thinking was this could potentially be our last game and I wanted to do my best for them.”
Friday’s loss brought an end to the high school careers for Cuevas, Gillespie, Wiechring, Ty Hehman, Porter Phelps and Matt Garcia.
“It was great, especially for a senior season,” Gillespie said. “I get to go out of here with a district title under my belt. I know that me and the other seniors helped lead this team and that younger class is going to continue to make Eagle baseball great. That’s pretty much all I can ask for. I love this sport. I love this team. I hope it continues to grow.”