The 4A state baseball championship last night came down to a matter of inches, or perhaps even a fraction thereof.
Had Mack Mueller’s fourth pitch to Chase Basham in the sixth inning been an inch lower, the ball would have laid down on the ground in front of the catcher.
Instead the squeeze play bunt popped up into Abilene Wylie third baseman Joh Tople’s glove putting Basham out for the second out. Tople ran back to third, to force out Cody Wolf, who was dashing home to score what would have been the tying run, ending the inning.
Salado struggled with Mueller’s pitching throughout the game, but in the sixth scored two runs and had the bases loaded with just one out.
Preston Payne ground out to first to start the sixth, Ryan Dunnahoo walked and was only the second Eagle to reach base so far in the state final. Phillip Ellis singled and Cody Wolf singled to load the bases. Drew Dobbins fought Mueller to a walk after getting behind in the count, forcing across the Eagles’ first run. Jacob Wilk singled to score Ellis and keep the bases loaded.
The Eagles rattled Mueller, but the pitcher maintained his perfect record and earned the Most Valuable Player award after holding Salado scoreless in the top of the seventh. Garrett Lightfoot walked to lead off the inning. Grant Taylor popped up to second and Preston Payne grounded out to third, advancing Lightfoot to scoring position. Mueller was able to force Ryan Dunnahoo into grounding out to short to end the game.
Mueller had just three strikeouts in the game, counting on Tyler Henson to grab four grounders to throw the runners out at first and grabbing two himself. The Bulldog defense allowed just one baserunner through the first five innings. Lightfoot was able to turn an error by shortstop Zach Smith into a tw-bag effort with one out in the second. However, he got caught stealing third.
The Bulldogs scored a run in each of the first three innings. Zach Smith led off with a single. An errant throw by Chase Basham to first allow Lane Bourland to get to scored and Smith to third. Mueller hit a sacrifice to shortstop to score the runner. before Chase Basam forced John Tople into grounding out to third and struckj out Bryce Gist.
With one out in the second, Cameron Hanna singled and scored on a booming double to left by Riley Hedge.
Mueller singled with one out in the third. He went to second on a passed ball and stole third. Gist singled, scoring Mueller.
Salado Head Coach Chad Krempin called Wolf in to relieve Basham on the mound midway through the fourth inning, when Wylie threatened to score again, having a runner on second and just oen out.
Wolf, who had thrown about 100 pitches the day before struck out lead-off batter Smith and caused Bourland to ground out to short. Wolf allowed no Wylie batter to reach base over the next two innings, striking out three.
SALADO EAGLES (2) AT ABILENE WYLIE BULLDOGS (3) SALADO EAGLES AB R H BI ABILENE WYLIE BULLDO AB R H BI Cody Wolf 3 0 1 0 Zach Smith 3 1 1 0 Drew Dobbins 2 0 0 1 Lane Bourland 2 0 0 0 Jacob Wilk 3 0 1 1 Mack Mueller 2 0 1 1 Chase Basham 3 0 0 0 John Tople 2 0 0 0 Garrett Lightfoot 2 0 0 0 Bryce Gist 3 0 1 1 Grant Taylor 3 0 0 0 Tyler Henson 3 0 0 0 Preston Payne 3 0 0 0 Cameron Hanna 3 1 1 0 Ryan Dunnahoo 2 1 0 0 Riley Hedge 3 0 1 1 Phillip Ellis 2 1 1 0 Jared Asbill 1 0 0 0 *Brady Horn 0 1 0 0 TOTALS 23 2 3 2 TOTALS 22 3 5 3 SALADO EAGLES 000 002 0 -- 2 ABILENE WYLIE BULLDOGS 111 000 x -- 3 LOB--SALADO EAGLES 3, ABILENE WYLIE BULLDOGS 5. ERR--Jacob Wilk, Chase Basham, Zach Smith. 2B--Riley Hedge. HBP--John Tople. SACB--Jared Asbill, Lane Bourland, Mack Mueller. SB--Brady Horn. SALADO EAGLES IP H R ER BB SO HR Chase Basham 3.33 5 3 3 0 4 0 Cody Wolf 2.67 0 0 0 0 4 0 ABILENE WYLIE BULLDOGS Mack Mueller 7.00 3 2 2 3 4 0 PB--Cullen McKinney. SO--Jacob Wilk, Drew Dobbins, Grant Taylor, Chase Basham, Tyler Henson, John Tople, Bryce Gist, Jared Asbill, Riley Hedge, Cameron Hanna (2), Zach Smith. BB--Drew Dobbins, Garrett Lightfoot, Ryan Dunnahoo.