Lampasas tournament tests Mustangs before district

Nathan Hendrix/The Highlander

Shortstop Zack Zavala slides into third base after a leadoff triple in the top of the first inning against Lampasas. The Mustangs won 5-4 but were eliminated in the first game on Saturday.

 

 

 

By Nathan Hendrix

Sports Editor

The Marble Falls baseball team took the lead in the top of the final inning in a 5-4 win against Lampasas on Thursday as part of the Lampasas tournament, but the Mustangs were eliminated in the first game on Saturday.

The Mustangs have developed a bit of a rivalry with the Badgers since head coach Russell Reichenbach took over last season. Thursday's game was close throughout, and Reichenbach said it was a good simulation of district baseball.

“Last year, we made it a point to play against each other,” he said. “We're always competitive. To play a well-coached team and find a way to come out on top is huge for us.”

The score was tied at four in the top of the sixth inning when third baseman Xander Whitted reached first on a fielder's choice. With two outs, leadoff batter Zack Zavala drove a ball into the gap that scored Whitted with aggressive baserunning calls by Reichenbach at third base.

The aggressive calls had backfired on the Mustangs in the previous two innings: in the fourth inning, Zavala was thrown out at home after being waved past third base; in the fifth inning, pinch-runner Ethan Murphy was picked off trying to steal second base.

“It's great to be aggressive, but we have to be smart as well,” Reichenbach said. “We're not a powerhouse offensive team, so the baserunning is going to have to be there.”

The bats were working for the Mustangs for the majority of the game, and Zavala led the way at the plate. Zavala finished four-for-four with a triple, two doubles and the eventual game-winning RBI.

“He's done a really good job at the top of the lineup for us,” Reichenbach said. “I told the team after the game that, offensively, we're heading in the right direction.”

Zavala got started in the first inning with a leadoff triple that set the tone for the Mustangs. Sean Curtis followed it up with an RBI double, and back-to-back walks loaded the bases with no outs. Pitcher Dillon Mayberry hit into a double play that scored Curtis, and outfielder Luke Nail singled to score another before the inning ended.

The Badgers were able to tie it up in the bottom of the first after several errors in the field by the Mustang defense.

“There are parts of the game where we're still beating ourselves,” Reichenbach said. “The good part is we didn't fold or allow those errors to snowball. We found a way to respond, and that's a sign of a team heading in the right direction.”

Mayberry responded to each of the Badgers' scoring threats and minimized the damage done with clutch pitching. He struck out a batter to end the first inning that stranded three runners on base, and struck out a Badgers batter in the bottom of the fifth that stranded the potential go-ahead run on third.

“In the first inning, he wasn't in his zone, but he competed through it,” Reichenbach said. “We ask our pitchers to just give us a chance to win, and Dillon does a great job of that.”

Pitcher Hunter Rodgers entered the game for Mayberry in the bottom of the sixth inning and also struck out the final batter with runners in scoring position to secure the save.

The Mustangs defeated Little River Academy earlier on Thursday by a score of 10-4. On Saturday, the Mustangs were knocked out in the first game of elimination play by Troy in a 5-4 game that the Mustangs led 4-0 early.

The Lampasas tournament was the final warm-up for the Mustangs prior to district play, which begins on Tuesday at home against Leander Rouse.

“It's good preparation going through these tournaments,” Reichenbach said. “Hopefully, it gave us a taste of playoff baseball. In the position we're in, we can't anyone lightly.”

The Mustangs will finish the two-game series with the Raiders in Leander on Friday, March 15. The first pitch for both games is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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