For a couple hours against Hardaway at Golden Park on Monday, the Harris County baseball team had lost control.
Lost control of its pitches, lost control of its hitting and, most importantly, lost control of its own destiny in the race for the Region 1-AAAAA title. But after dropping the first of a doubleheader to the Hawks 7-1, a score that was never really even that close, the Tigers did what good teams do.
They reset, they flushed the memory and they realized what was in front of them. Five innings later, they had scored a 12-1 victory in Game 2 to notch a split on the afternoon and regain control of its own future.
“We had some time to explain to our kids where we are,” Harris County coach Steve Westmoreland said. “We didn’t have to sweep. We had to win one. And our guys knew it wasn’t going to be easy. To sweep a quality team like that, we’ve got to play better than we did in Game 1, and they’ve got to play better than they did in Game 2. You put two good teams on the field, that’s what’s going to happen.”
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The Hawks and Tigers have been at each other’s heels for the length of the season, and it’s only fitting that the race should come down to the final day of the regular season, when Harris County hosts Thomas County Central in a doubleheader on Friday.
No matter what Hardaway does against Northside on Tuesday, Harris County will play for a region title on Friday. If the Hawks beat Northside, the Tigers must sweep Thomas County Central for the region title. If Hardaway comes up short, Harris County can play for a split Friday to take home a top seed in the Class AAAAA playoffs.
“That’s the good thing,” Westmoreland said. “We’ll know Friday what we need to do based on what happens with Hardaway.”
For a moment, it appeared anything after Monday might be a moot point. If the Hawks had swept like it appeared they might do after their Game 1 performance, they would have clinched their second consecutive region title and the region seedings would have been locked in place.
Instead, Harris County got a strong outing from pitcher Drew Reeves and began scoring the runs it had left on base in the opener.
Reeves went the distance, pitching five innings and allowing one unearned run on three hits and striking out five batters. Both Westmoreland and Reeves agreed it was his best performance of the season.
“He saved his best,” Westmoreland said. “That’s his best outing so far. There’s no doubt he’s got phenomenal talent. He’s been piecing it together, and he brought it today.”
Reeves said he thought both his fastball and his curveball were effective, which was necessary in that situation.
“I knew I had to pitch my best,” he said. “I felt like I did.”
So did the hitters.
After leaving nine men on base in Game 1, the Tigers struck for three runs right away in the first inning, including two on a two-RBI double by Casey Cobb, the losing pitcher in the first game.
They got one more in the second, four in the third and four in the fourth. Kurt Ornowski drove in three runs, and A.J. Willoughby, Casey Cobb and Tyler Maley drove in two apiece.
“I thought we had some quality at-bats in that first game,” Westmoreland said. “We just couldn’t find that big hit, where Hardaway did. I felt like if we could keep having quality at-bats, we could start getting some guys in.”
Hardaway did the damage in the first game, picking up a win for pitcher Trevon Dorsey. Josh Anthony notched a pair of doubles and RBIs and Blake Meadows had two doubles and one RBI. Cobb picked up the loss for the Tigers.
Now Harris County is back in the position it’s wanted to be in all year.
“There’s only one team I want to control our destiny, and that’s us,” Westmoreland said.
Monday at Golden Park
Harris County 000 100 0—1 5 1
Hardaway 402 100 x—7 11 0
WP—Trevon Dorsey. LP—Casey Cobb. Leading hitters—Harris County, Kurt Ornowski 2-3, Casey Cobb 1-3, 2B; Hardaway, Trent Abrams 2-4, 2 Rs, Trevon Dorsey 2-4, 2B, RBI, R, Josh Anthony 2-2, 2 2Bs, 2 RBIs, 2 Rs, Blake Meadows 2-3, 2 2Bs, RBI, 2 Rs.
Harris County 314 40—12 10 2
Hardaway 001 00—1 3 2
WP—Drew Reeves. LP—Tony Locey. Leading hitters—Harris County, Kurt Ornowski 3-4, 2B, 3 RBIs, 3 Rs, Hughes Massengale 2-3, 3 Rs, A.J. Willoughby 3-4, 2B, 2 RBIs, Tyler Maley 1-3, 2 RBIs, Casey Cobb 1-2, 2B, 2 RBIs, 2 Rs; Hardaway, Josh Anthony 1-2, Blake Meadows 1-1, Blake Rupp 1-2. Records—Harris County, 16-5, 10-3; Hardaway, 17-6, 10-3.