It's Iowa Park vs. Godley in 1-4A Region finals
Only eight teams remain in the 2018 Class 4A state baseball playoffs, and Iowa Park (30-5) is one of them, thanks to a persistent effort against No. 6 Bushland (32-7) in a best-of-three regional semifinal series won by the Hawks 2-1.
Not only did the No. 8 Hawks rally Wednesday in Game 1 from 4-1 deficit with a five-run fifth inning to win 6-5, Coach Michael Swenson’s squad rebounded from a 5-1 loss in Game 2 to win their fifth elimination contest of the playoffs Friday in Game 3 with a 13-7 win to secure the series.
Iowa Park now goes up against a formidable opponent in No. 4 Godley in the 1-4A Region Finals with the first game in a best-of-three series to be played Wednesday (as this issue was being printed) starting at 7 p.m. at Justin Northwest High School. Game 2 is set for 1 p.m. today (Iowa Park visitors), with Game 3, if neccesary, starting at 7 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $6 at the gate.
Godley cruised through the early stages of the playoffs with a 12-0, 8-0 win over Mineral Wells, then an 11-1, 15-1 area win over Burkburnett. They held off Kennedale 2-0 in a one-game quarterfinal series, then worked past Denver City 10-5, 9-6. In the second game against Denver City (21-16), Godley rallied from four runs down with six outs remaining for the win.
The other six teams remaining in the 4A playoffs include Salado and Jasper (which defeated last year’s state finalist No. 3 Waco Robinson in three games 3-1, 5-9, 13-1), Kilgore, No. 1 Argyle, No. 10 Fredericksburg, and No. 5 Sweeny.
“We knew coming in they were going to give us everything they wanted,” Swenson said of Bushland. “They swing the bats way too well. I thought their pitchers were better than we had heard. They had more velocity than we thought, and did a good job of keeping us off balance.
“But, overall for us, we stayed the course,” Swenson continued. “We were patient at the plate. We got into some favorable counts and started hitting the ball a lot harder throughout the series. And played pretty clean defensively.
“It was a gritty win. It was definitely tough. The kids had to battle the entire time.”
In Game 1 Wednesday at Lubbock Christian University’s diamond, The Falcons built an early 4-0 lead through three innings, while the Hawks added a single run in the fourth on a double by Trent Green to score Kaleb Gafford.
Green had a hand in the five-run fifth, doubling in two runs. The Hawks scored the other three runs on a fielding error and two bases-loaded walks. Green ended the game 3-for-3 with 3 RBIs.
Gafford earned the win on the mound, pitching two and two-thirds innings and allowing one run on one hit with three strikeouts and three walks.
Starter Chris Dickens pitched four and one-third innings, allowing four runs on six hits with five strikeouts and four walks.
Other Hawks getting hits were Dickens and Noah Diaz.
Although both teams had seven hits each in Game 2, it was Bushland that capitalized the most in a 5-1 win.
Braxton Briones took the loss on the mound, going six innings and allowing five runs on seven hits while striking out two.
Justin Thornhill led at plate with a 2-for-2 effort, while Derek Hostas tripled and Gafford doubled.
In Game 3, the Hawks pounded out 14 hits to 10 for the Falcons. After taking a 1-0 lead in the opening frame when Kase Johnson scored on a fielder’s choice by Diaz.
Iowa Park exploded for 11 runs in the second, working through three Falcon pitchers and capitalized on a three-run double by Dickens and a three-run triple by Green. Diaz added a two-run triple.
Bushland fought back in the bottom of the inning, scoring six. The two teams added single runs later for the 13-7 final.
Hostas earned the win, going five innings and allowing seven runs on nine hits while striking out six. Gafford threw two innings of relief.
Johnson, Hostas, Briones and Gafford all had multiple hits for Iowa Park.
Iowa Park met the No. 4 Godley earlier this season in the Midlothian Heritage Tournament, losing 10-0. The loss is a bit deceptive, though, as the Hawks utilized their top two pitchers in wins over Heritage (2-0) and Kennedale (6-2). Kennedale lost in the quarterfinals to the Wildcats 2-0.
The only loss by Godley this year was to Midlothian Heritage in conference play.
Godley (28-1) is facing Iowa Park in its third consecutive regional finals, losing the past two years to eventual state champion Abilene Wylie.
The winner will advance as Region 1 representative in Austin.
The Wildcats are senior-laden with six starters on the roster (eight total), which also includes three D-1 commits.
The top pitcher, senior right-hander Brett Brown, is committed to Texas A&M. The other top hurler, junior lefty Chase Lummus, has already signed with the University of Texas.
In addition to quality pitching, the Wildcats are a terror at the plate, with four batters hitting over .600 (Easton James .688, Bobby Goodloe (TCU commit) .667, and Lummus .636).
“They are just overall a very good team,” Swenson said. “Their pitching is very good. But that’s not what makes them go. What makes them go is their offense. One through nine, they have the ability to run the ball in the park at any point in the lineup. They don’t strike out much. They do a good job of not missing their pitch. They are ready to swing early, and they do a good job of not missing their pitch.”
TO THE WINNER
The winner of the Iowa Park vs. Godley 1-4A Region Final series will advance to the state tournament next week along with three other regional champs.
Class 4A semifinal games are scheduled for 1 and 4 p.m. Wednesday at the University of Texas’ Disch Falk Field.
The championship game will be played at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.