Highlanders, Wildcats split playoff baseball doubleheader, series goes to Game 3
THE WOODLANDS, TX -- The Woodlands and Cypress Woods baseball teams put on a thrilling show on Thursday in Games 1 and 2 of their Area Round matchup in the UIL State Baseball Playoffs. Game 1 went to the Highlanders. The 8-7 win was secured thanks to clutch hitting in the final innings. With their season on the line, the Wildcats came out hot to win 5-3 and force a series-deciding Game 3.
You could feel the energy and the intensity of a playoff game right from the first pitch. Both dugouts were fired up and reacting with great emotion to every play. Umpires had to warn each side a few times during both games.
Game 1 started off as a defensive showcase by both teams. Cy-Woods and The Woodlands had a few top play worthy snags including amazing diving catches by Zach Escovedo and Chase Richter. Escovedo’s play stopped the Wildcats from expanding their 1-0 lead early in the game. Richter robbed Luke Hammond of an extra-base hit into centerfield to keep the Highlanders scoreless after two innings.
The Woodlands got their bats hot in the middle innings to take a 5-1 lead over Cy-Woods. The surge began when Casey Sunseri drove the ball into right field for a two-run RBI double and the team’s first lead of the day.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Highlander infield pulled off a game-changing triple play to stifle what was looking like a strong comeback from the Wildcats. Catcher Drew Romo caught a failed bunt attempt and fired a throw to second base where both baserunners were caught napping.
Believe it or not, the chaos was just getting started. In the bottom of the sixth, Luke Nagy doubled to bring home three runs and tie Game 1 up at five. During the next at-bat, an errant throw to first base allowed Nagy to score from second and give the Wildcats the lead for the second time on the day.
In the top of the seventh, The Woodlands showed why they are one of the favorites to reach State. Singles from Sunseri and Harrison Caley set up Dylan McDowell to put the Highlanders level with Cy-Woods with a two-strike double. Then, Zach Escovedo stepped up to hit the game-winning single, bringing in two more runs with his fly ball into center field.
The Woodlands held on in the bottom of the inning for the 8-7 victory in the opening game. Casey Sunseri lead the team in the batter’s box with three hits on four appearances and two RBIs. Will Swope got the start and pitched 5 innings, striking out two before being replaced for an inning each by Cody Howard and Matthew Bulovas.
In an effort to avoid the weekend’s severe weather, the coaches agreed to turn today’s meeting into a doubleheader. After about a 30-minute break, both teams were back on the turf for warmups. Although the heat and humidity had many players fatigued and cramping, the energy and intensity didn’t drop off at all. Once again, both teams had to be warned by the umpires to keep the trash-talking and celebrating down a bit.
Cy-Woods jumped out to a 4-0 lead after two innings. A double by Dalton Bourgeois, followed by a single from Dylan Bourgeois and Cal Campbell gave the Wildcats the start they needed in a do-or-die game. A passed ball gave The Woodlands their first run in the fourth, then both teams added a run in the fifth to set up a three-run game all the way into the final inning.
In the bottom of the seventh, things were beginning to look like the Highlanders were about to give the crowd at Grand Oaks a double dose of late-game magic. Singles from PJ Villareal and Zach Escovedo, and an outfield collision that allowed Cam Caley to reach first loaded the bases for one of the best power hitters on the team. Drew Romo stepped in the box looking to punch their ticket to Round 3, but a ground out to first was only enough to bring home just one run.
Cy-Woods survived Game 2 to set up Friday’s winner-takes-all Game 3 at Grand Oaks HS at 7:30 p.m.