BRENHAM - For five innings on Saturday, Shiner showed the dominance with which it won a Class 1A state baseball championship last year.
Shiner pitcher Colton Henley pitched 8-1/3 innings allowing only two earned runs and striking out a combined seven hitters in Games 2 and 3 of Shiner's best-of-three regional semifinal series against Thorndale. Harry Reese, Special to the Advocate
For the next seven innings, the Comanches showed how quickly it can diminish.
Shiner's Colten Henley hurled a two-hitter as the Comanches routed the Bulldogs 13-1 to force a decisive Game 3. He courageously came back out for the first 3 1/3 innings of the rubber game, but Thorndale took advantage of an inconsistent offense to win the game 7-1 and take the regional semifinal series 2-1.
The Bulldogs (29-5) advance to face Ben Bolt, a winner over Brackett on Saturday, in the Region IV-1A title game. The Comanches (25-5) end their bid to become the sixth school in UIL history to win football and baseball titles in the same season.
The difference in the outcome of the two games didn't have much to do with exhausted pitchers. It had everything to do with Shiner's struggles at the plate.
Shiner appeared primed for a return to the Region IV-1A final after the offensive firepower of Game 2. A 10-run fourth inning was highlighted by a Scott Shimek two-run double, a Jared Boedeker RBI single and Mark Casteel RBI double. The Comanches sent 14 men to the plate that inning and also capitalized off two wild pitches, a passed ball and a throwing error on a pickoff attempt.
"We were hot at the plate," Shiner coach Daniel Boedeker said. "Hitting's contagious. We were just feeding off each other at the plate."
After the game was stopped after 4 1/2 innings because of the 10-run mercy rule, the Comanches reverted back to their offense they showed in the first game on Wednesday.
Shiner could manage only two hits of its own - both coming off the bat of Chris Baer. Thorndale starter Ryan Lindemann even sat down 11 of 12 batters after allowing Baer to cross the plate off a throwing error.
"We didn't get the hits when we needed them," Boedeker said. "We just couldn't find the holes out there. That probably contributed to (the loss) more than anything. We had chances, we hit the ball well. We just couldn't get them across early in the game."
"I guess (it was) the nerves, knowing one game puts them away," Lindemann said of the lopsided Game 2. "The wheels fell off, but they came back on for that third game."
Shutting Shiner down at the plate was a payback for what Henley did to the Thorndale hitters earlier in the afternoon.
He allowed the Bulldogs' only two hits - Colby Hilton's double and Jacob Lofton's single - in the third inning before Miles Grisham's sacrifice fly to left-center scored the Bulldogs' sole run of Game 2. The junior faced three batters over the minimum as he struck out five - four of them looking - but walked four. He picked two runners off of first base to negate two of those free passes.
"His curveball he had working early all the way throughout the first game when he was bringing it down toward the knees," Boedeker said. "That's what we got most of our outs on."
The speed and multitude of Shiner's hitting enabled Henley to have an opportunity to take the mound for Game 3.
But when the left-hander needed the offense the most, it wasn't there. He wasn't nearly the dominant, tall pitcher that stood on the mound for Game 2 as Thorndale slapped five hits in the first three innings.
He finally hit an expected wall in the fourth when he yielded a walk followed by a single with one out. He then took his exit to a thunderous standing ovation after working 8 1/3 innings, allowing only two earned runs and striking out a combined seven hitters in the two games.
"He didn't throw many pitches the first game," Boedeker said. "When he was battling, he was still throwing strikes. In the fourth, you can tell he kind of hit the wall there a little bit. He didn't have the pop, his mechanics were off.
"He gave us a chance to win early in the game. We just couldn't get him any runs."
The Bulldogs plated insurance runs in the fourth and fifth innings before slugging out four more in the sixth, guaranteeing Class 1A will have a new state champion.
GAME 2 OF 3 SCORE: F Thorndale 0 0 1 0 0 -- 1 Shiner 2 1 0 10 x -- 13 HIGHLIGHTS: Class 1A Regional Semifinals, Game 2 at Blinn College, Brenham Kevin Zuelke and Colby Hilton. Colton Henley and Chris Baer. WP: Henley (7-1). LP: Zuelke (2-2). Highlights: (S) Scott Shimek 2-for-3, 2 runs, 2B, 3 RBIs; Mark Casteel 2-for-2, 2 runs, RBI; Justin Joslin 2-for-3, 2 runs; Chris Baer 2-for-3, 2 runs. Records: Shiner 25-4; Thorndale 28-5. GAME 3 OF 3 SCORE: F Shiner 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 -- 1 Thorndale 1 0 0 1 5 0 x -- 7 HIGHLIGHTS: Class 1A Regional Semifinals, Game 3 at Blinn College, Brenham Colton Henley, Scott Shimek (4), Ryan Kloesel (6) and Chris Baer. Ryan Lindermann, Wade Gilchrist (6) and Colby Hilton. WP: Lindermann (5-2). LP: Henley (7-2). Highlights: (S) Chris Baer 2-for-2, run. Records: Shiner 25-5; Thorndale 29-5. Note: Thorndale advances to the Region IV-1A final to play Ben Bolt.