Almost a year after the Comanches knocked the Bulldogs out of the playoffs, Thorndale went into this year's series with Shiner determined not to see history repeat itself.
CELEBRATION: Chris Gerren is met by teammates on the way to the dugout after scoring the go-ahead run in game three Saturday. photo by Jeremy Weber
After a nightmare 13-1 loss in game two to start the day Saturday, the Bulldogs came up big in a deciding game three later in the afternoon to pull out a 7-1 win and a 2-1 series victory in Brenham.
"That was the biggest win I have ever been a part of," Thorndale coach Scott Holder said after game three. "I was worried at first about how we handled ourselves when we saw adversity in game two, but I knew we would have to (do) better in the next game."
GAME TWO: Shiner 13, Thorndale 1
The Bulldogs fell behind early in game two as the Comanches scored twice in the bottom of the first to take a 2-0 lead.
Chris Baer led off with a walk and stole second. With one out, Scott Shimek sent a pitch into right center for an RBI single and a 1-0 lead.
Ryan Kloesel popped up to second but a bad throw to first ended up in the Bulldog dugout and brought Shimek home for a 2-0 Shiner lead.
Wade Gilchrist led off the top of the second with a walk for the Bulldogs, but a strikeout and a 5-4-3 double play ended the inning with Shiner still leading 2-0.
The Comanches added to their lead in the bottom of the inning as Mark Caseteel led off with a single up the middle and advanced to second on a pitch in the dirt. Chase O'Conner popped up to second and Kyle Condel was robbed of a hit by a great catch in left by Jacob Loftin for the second out of the inning. Justin Joslin brought Casteel home with a single up the middle to give Shiner a 3-0 lead heading into the third.
Thorndale picked up its only run of the game in the third as Colby Hilton hit a one- out double to the wall in left center and was replaced by courtesy runner John Laffere. A bloop single to right center by Jacob Loftin put runners on the corners for Miles Grisham.
Grisham sent a fly ball to right center to score Laffere from third and cut the lead to 3-1.
Ross Towery drew a walk to put runners on first and second before a ground out to short ended the rally.
The score remained 3-1 into the bottom of the fourth, where things fell apart for the Bulldogs. Shiner sent 14 batters to the plate in the inning as 10 runs scored to put the game out of Thorndale's reach.
O'Conner led off with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Condel. A throwing error allowed Joslin to reach on a bunt before an infield bloop hit by Baer fell just out of the reach of diving Thorndale pitcher Kevin Zuehlke to load the bases.
Jared Boedeker picked up an RBI on a single to right center before a double to left center by Shimek made the score 6-1.
With Josh Culp in to pitch for the Bulldogs, a wild pitch brought home Boedeker for a 7-1 lead before a bad pick-off throw to first allowed another run to score.
A double to the corner in right made the score 9-1 before a hit batter and an infield single loaded the bases again for the Comanches.
A double down the right-field line by Joslin brought in two more runs for an 11-1 Shiner lead. Cirilo Reyes became Thorndale's third pitcher of the game as he came in to relieve Culp.
Two wild pitches brought in two more runs as the Shiner lead grew to 13-1.
Baer picked up a single up the middle before Boedeker struck out to end the inning.
The Bulldogs went down in order in the top of the fifth as Shiner won game two via the 10- run rule.
GAME THREE: Thorndale 7, Shiner 1
The 45 minutes between games two and three gave the Bulldogs time to reflect on the disappointment of last season. Thorndale came into game three determined not to see their season end against Shiner for the second consecutive year.
The Bulldogs looked shaky in the first as Shiner again jumped out to an early lead.
Baer sent Ryan Lindemann's first pitch of the game into left for a single and advanced to second on an infield single by Boedeker. Shimek sent a ground ball to Austin Falke at short, who threw to second for the force out. The throw to first in an attempted double play sailed wide and allowed Baer to score for a 1-0 Shiner lead.
A ground ball to Falke by Kloesel was thrown to third in time to tag out Shimek for the second out before Dylan Hagens struck out to end the half-inning.
The Bulldogs answered quickly as they came back to tie the game in the bottom of the inning.
Grisham sent a pitch into right for a single and advanced to third as the ball got past O'Conner for an error.
After two infield fly-ball outs, Gilchrist sent a single up the middle and off the glove of Kloesel to score Grisham and tie the game.
The game became a defensive struggle through the middle innings as the score remained 1-1 into the bottom of the fourth.
Falke led off with a walk for the Bulldogs before Chris Gerren hit into a fielder's choice play at second.
Kalen Revia hit a single up the middle to put runners on first and second for the bulldogs.
Shiner starting pitcher Colten Henley was replaced by game one loser Shimek, who struck out Loftin for the second out of the inning.
Grisham sent a chopper to Kloesel at short. Kloesel threw the ball wide of first for an error that allowed Gerren to score for a 2-1 Thorndale lead.
Grisham took second without a throw before a ground ball to second by Towery ended the inning.
The Bulldogs added to their lead in the bottom of the fifth as Lindemann began a two- out rally with a single to right center and was replaced by Culp as a courtesy runner.
Falke drew a walk to put runners on first and second before Gerren sent a pitch into right center for an RBI single that gave Thorndale a 3-1 lead.
Gilchrist came in to pitch for the Bulldogs in the top of the sixth and made quick work of the Comanches as he struck out Shimek and Kloesel before Hagens hit a weak ground ball to Lindemann at first for the third out.
Thorndale broke the game open in the bottom of the inning as Grisham drew a one-out walk and advanced to second on a passed ball.
With two outs, Kiesling hit a ground ball to Boedeker at third, who threw the ball wide of first for an error to put runners on the corners for the Bulldogs.
Gilchrist followed with a single up the middle to score Grisham and was replaced by Culp as a courtesy runner. Lindemann followed with a single up the middle to score Kiesling for a 5-1 lead.
With Kloesel in to pitch for Shiner, Falke sent a bloop single down the right-field line to score Culp and Lindemann for a 7-1 Thorndale lead.
The Comanches got a runner on base in the top of the seventh as Condel was hit by a pitch, but Shiner could do nothing to come back as Thorndale grabbed a 7-1 victory.
Lindemann picked up the win for Thorndale as he allowed one run and struck out four in five innings of work. Gilchrist earned the save.
"I came into this game (game 3) thinking that we had to get them," Lindemann said after the game. "I knew that we got all of our errors out of our system in the second game and I knew I had to step it up."
While this series was an important and emotional win for the Bulldogs, their quest for a state title is not over yet.
"That series was a very big win for us. These are two of the top-notch teams in the state" coach Holder said. "But we still have a big series ahead of us."
The Bulldogs will take on Ben Bolt in the Regional Finals beginning Friday at 7:30 p.m. in San Antonio. The series in tentatively scheduled to be played in Wolf Stadium.
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