HS Baseball Playoffs: Tomball Shutout Sends Willis Home in Defeat

By: Jake Wilson
| Published 05/18/2024


WALLER, TX -- A complete game shutout from Karson Reeder gave the Tomball Cougars (33-3) a 1-0 win over the Willis Wildkats (25-11) to sweep the Regional Quarterfinal series.

Following the Cougars’ win on Friday, the Wildkats needed to regain the offensive momentum that kept the team in contention. The elements of fielding and pitching were reliable, but the frequent stranded runners prevented Willis from clinching the game in the clutch.

In an exclusive interview with The Woodlands Online Sports, Wildkat Head Coach Brett Washburn spoke on the messaging to the team ahead of the do-or-die game two.

“Continue to compete,” said Washburn. “Being one game down in a three-game series doesn’t mean anything when you have a guy on the mound that can do what he does.”

Willis’ “guy” on the mound was Maddox Keo. The left-handed pitcher had been the Wildkats’ ace in the hole when the team needed a win, and he proved his worth.

In contrast to the high-flying hitting from Friday, a defensive battle ensued for the first four innings. Neither squad managed to bring in runners despite having several situations with runners on.

The Cougars left a runner stranded on the basepath four times through the four-inning scoreless stretch. Two of those instances had runners in scoring position, key scorers that could have broken the deadlock convincingly.

On the flip side, Willis’ offense could not match the play of their defense. Only three Wildkats reached the bases throughout the entire game due in large part to the impressive pitching from Reeder.

The occasional off-speed throw in tandem with his blazing fastballs meant Reeder reliably struckout batters or set up his fielders with frequent pop-flys.

“That guy on the mound was pretty good today,” said Washburn in praise of Reeder. “We ground out some at-bats, but we couldn’t really get any balls into gaps or get anything to fall our way.”

Willis’ balancing act of ineffective offense with a defense barely escaping situations with Tomball runners on ended in a brutal fifth inning.

Lead-off batter Catcher Hopkins reached base on a rare Keo walk and was immediately pushed on the basepath by a passed ball. Then stepped in Cade Arrambide hoisting a shot into the outfield for the tie-breaking RBI double.

Willis was fortunately able to escape the tough spot with only a 1-0 deficit, but their inability to get a clean read on Reeder left the team in freefall.

The bottoms of the fifth and sixth went down in order, and desperation mode was engaged in the bottom of the seventh still down one.

The nearly stainless Wildkat defense sat down Tomball’s batters in sequence and gave the team enough of a window to attempt a comeback in the closing moments.

Seeing the end in sight, the Cougar fielders continued to play their usual defense, getting two quick outs against the heart of Willis’ lineup.

Needing just one run to tie, Gage Blinka entered the batter’s box, hoping to be the hero his team needed. A strong ping off his bat sent the ball into shallow right field for the Wildkats’ first hit since the bottom of the third.

With the tying run aboard, Willis only needed a solid base hit to likely bring home the speedy Blinka for the tie. Sadly for the Wildkats, their hopes were dashed by Reeder’s ninth strikeout of the game, ending their season in a 1-0 loss to Tomball.

As 13-6A’s deepest playoff team, the Wildkats leave the bracket hoping to return to postseason play. Replacing Maddox Keo and Austin Gaskins on the mound presents a challenge, but one that Washburn and the rest of the Wildkat Baseball Program look forward to tackling.

“It’s going to be a hard spot, but we have some good young guys that were on our sub-varsity that can fill that void,” said an optimistic Washburn. “Luckily, we get to return several of our key bats. We’ll lose a couple as well, but there’s a good mix coming up to fill those holes.”

The optimistic next generation of Wildkats will look to make their impacts come next season.

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