This week was a tremendous opportunity for the Amarillo High Sandies to deepen their footprint atop the District 3-5A standings, and they took full advantage of it.
The Sandies entered the week with a one-game lead over Plainview (which was open all week) and Palo Duro, and they had two crosstown games with the latter on Wednesday and Thursday to narrow or expand the gulf in the district standings. By the end of Thursday, Amarillo High was the first 3-5A team in the playoffs.
In near identical back-to-back games, the Sandies dominated Palo Duro, beating the Dons 10-0 in a 10-run mercy rule decision in their first meeting at Sandie Field, then 24 hours later they won an 11-0 decision in six innings at Palo Duro. Sawyer Shipman and Payne Williams threw back-to-back one-hitters on the mound for Amarillo High (13-10-2, 7-1 in district).
The Sandies will go into an open week next week created by a quirk in the five-team district scheduling as the prohibitive favorite for the district’s number one playoff seed. Since losing to Palo Duro 4-3 in the second game of district (Amarillo High’s first loss to the Dons in 22 years), the Sandies have been on a mission with six straight district wins.
“The biggest thing is staying on top of the district,” AHS coach Randon Johnson said. “Coming into this week we were both sitting at one loss. It was a huge week and I love the way the guys responded and went back to work after we came (to Palo Duro) and took a loss a couple of weeks ago. We talked about where we wanted to be at this point and the guys really wanted to get there.”
Where the Sandies are is not only in the playoffs, but guaranteed to hold at least a one-game district lead at the end of next week. Palo Duro (12-11, 3-3) now sits in third place, three games behind the Sandies.
Amarilo High picked up where it left off in the second game against the Dons. The Sandies scored two runs in the first inning off Palo Duro starter Lorenzo Castellanos, as Connor Haelzle tripled and scored on a single by Cannon Davis, and Jaxsen Hall drove in Davis with a double for a 2-0 lead.
That was all the support Williams needed. He gave up only one hit, a two-out single by Jabrelyn Wilson in the second inning, but Wilson was the only PD baserunner to even get to second base.
It was the equal of Shipman’s dominance the day before.
“We’ve got some guys behind (Shipman and Williams) but we didn’t have to use them this week,” Johnson said. “That’s a little bit hard if you’re that third or fourth guy, but it’s a lot easier on my stomach if those guys can do that. That’s exactly what we expected we would get from these guys. They’ve kind of figured out that recipe and established the fastball and you can see the success of it.”
The Sandies established the run-rule margin with five runs in the top of the sixth in the second game. Max McLemore drove in the first run with a triple and Jake Self ended the inning with an RBI double to foreshadow the early ending.
Tascosa, Caprock split
Tascosa and Caprock ended the week in the same place they started it – tied for the district’s fourth and final playoff spot.
That’s because the two Amarillo ISD teams split their two games this week with home field wins. Tascosa beat Caprock 6-0 at home on Wednesday, then on Thursday Caprock won 8-1 at home. Both teams are now 2-6 in district play.
Tascosa (10-14) wasn’t threatened in Wednesday’s meeting. Brayden Keeter was dominant on the mound, throwing a complete-game two-hitter and retiring the last 17 Caprock batters he faced.
However, Caprock’s win in Thursday’s game could be bigger in the district picture. Since the Longhorns (4-17-1) have taken two out of three in the season series with the Rebels, Caprock has the head-to-head advantage over Tascosa if the two teams finish tied in the district standings.
Cash throws one-hitter as Eagles score late to hold off West Plains
Old time baseball purists had to be ecstatic over Friday afternoon’s game between Canyon and West Plains at Canyon’s Double Eagle Field, yet also got a glance of the present and probably the future.
In a fast-paced pitching oriented which fit in nicely with pro baseball’s new sped-up game, Canyon and West Plains were stingy on the mound, as for five innings dueling left-handers Javin Cash of Canyon and Bryton Bertrand of West Plains matched zeros for five innings. The Eagles were the ones to finally break through in the bottom of the sixth, as Ben Black’s double to right drove home Hunter Anderson with the game’s only run to give Canyon a 1-0 victory.
Canyon (16-6, 6-2) assured it would remain in no worse than a tie for second in the district with the victory and Cash is responsible for most of it. Cash gave up only a second inning single to Boston Ladd and walked one while retiring the final 13 batters for the victory.
“It starts on the mound and the performance we got on the mound out of Javin was exactly what we needed,” Canyon coach John Doan said. “You just hope you get a good performance out of your guy and maybe you can grind something out or manufacture something offensively. We ran ourselves out of the inning in the third when we get a guy thrown out then we get a double.”
West Plains (14-9, 4-4) struggled to get even that much going off Cash. With one out in the first, Jeremiah Gutierrez drew a walk off Cash and stole second, but no other base runner for Plains got even that far the final 6 2/3 innings.
Canyon leadoff hitter Hunter Anderson drew a walk to start the sixth and went to second on Zabien Urteaga’s sacrifice bunt. Three pitches later, Black doubled to right to score Anderson with the game’s only run.
There was still a little drama in the top of the seventh. With one out, Jonnie Gifford hit Cash’s first pitch to the gap in left-center, but centerfielder Hunter Wilson made a diving backhanded catch. Cash then struck out Ethan Bentley to end the game.
The Eagles otherwise struggled against Bertrand, collecting only four hits.
New Canyon ISD school West Plains has been a thorn in the side of the older CISD schools so far. In their first district game ever, the Wolves rallied late before falling short to Canyon 8-7, then the next day lost to No. 3 Randall 5-3 in eight innings.
“It’s not only in the games we’ve played against them this year, you just look at the scores in this district with extra inning ball games and we haven’t had that in a long time,” Doan said. “There’s no day to just throw your hat out there and say ‘Hey, we’re gonna get a win.’ Everybody is really competitive this year and that makes it fun. It’s more stressful and you’ve really got to prepare for these guys.”
Randall routs Dumas
Randall started the second half of district the same way it did the first half, as the Raiders used a big inning to invoke the run-rule in winning 16-3 at Dumas in five innings.
The Raiders (22-3, 8-0) stayed unbeaten in district and hold a two-game lead over their nearest pursurers.
Dumas (5-17, 2-6) tied the game 1-1 with a run in the bottom of the first, but that was as good as it got for the Demons. Randall scored a run each in the second and third innings, then scored nine in the fourth inning to achieve the run-rule margin.
Kaden Juarez drove in four runs for the Raiders and Kole Dudding returned from a shoulder injury to drive in three.
Randall 16, Dumas 3, 5 innings
Perryton 2, Borger 1
Canyon 1, West Plains 0
Pampa 2, Hereford 1
Bushland rolls over Dimmitt
Playing at a different home location than usual didn’t hurt Bushland again, as the Falcons jumped on Dimmitt early and rolled to 12-0 run-rule victory in five innings at Hodgetown.
Bushland (17-3, 4-0) got a two-out rally with five runs in the first to get things going, helped by an error. Jaxon Fetsch drove in a run with the first of his two triples and Dawson Jaco had an RBI double.
The Falcons got the run-rule margin with four runs in the third. Winning pitcher Cannon Melban led off the inning with an inside-the-park home run to center.
Melban was just as dominant on the mound, allowing three singles and striking out 12. Dimmitt fell to 10-9 and 2-2.
Bushland 12, Dimmitt 0, 5 innings
River Road 14, Dalhart 11
Friona 15, Tulia 13