ENID, Okla. — Woodward Travelers left the Connie Mack South Plains Regional with their heads held high after a tough 7-6 nine-inning loss to the Texas Stix Davenport Saturday at David Allen Memorial Ballpark.
The Travelers appeared headed for Saturday night's elimination round when they scored five runs in the top of the seventh to take a 6-4 lead.
But Stix tied the game in the bottom of the seventh on a two-run homer by Jimmy Crooks and won it in the ninth when TCU commit Mason Speaker launched a fly ball beyond the reach of speedy center Tyler Richey to score Crooks for the final 7-6 margin.
"This team showed tremendous courage,'' said Travelers coach Mark Ward. "We try to teach our young men that baseball is about life — it's not winning or losing, but doing everything that you could. Sometimes you just get beat. We don't have any excuses. We did everything we could.''
Crooks led off the first with a single and stole second. Jake Speaker walked to put runners on first and second and Mason Speaker followed with the game-winning hit.
"Tyler made a good try for it,'' Ward said. "We had him in a little bit thinking he would need to throw out the runner on a single. We probably should have had him play a little bit deeper. ... He made a great player earlier in the game on the warning track (on a sacrifice fly by Jacob Guerrero in the fifth).''
"He's been a clutch player all of the time,'' said Stix coach Randy Thorpe of Mason Speaker. "TCU is going to get a good player."
The Stix took a 4-1 lead into the seventh on the strength of a strong pitching performance from Carter Campbell, who allowed only three hits and one run over six innings with five strikeouts and three walks.
Oklahoma State commit William Hicks' wilderness opened the flood gates for the Travelers.
He walked Preston Ward to open the inning. Ward scored after two wild pitches. Ty Goss walked and scored after two wild pitches. Hicks was removed after walking Brady Bowles and throwing another wild pitch in his first offering to Jett Brown.
Brown singled and a throwing error allowed Bowles to score to tie the game. Richey walked, Cade Church singled to bring in Brown and a hustling Richey. Church went to third on a wild pitch, but reliever Miguel Santos struck out Colton Clinesmith to end the threat.
"This team has shown tremendous courage,'' said Coach Ward about his team's comeback. "The character of Cade Church to get that big hit ... he was sitting the whole game, but he didn't get frustrated.He got the big hit. Our guys didn't quit. You saw it ... this is a bunch of rag-tag small town kids that love to play baseball and we just about pulled off a great victory. I'm proud of them.''
"We fell apart a little bit and lost our composure,'' Thorpe said.
Unfortunately for Woodward, Stix found their composure back in a hurry.
Santos reached on an error and Crooks lifted a pitch over the right field wall to tie the score at 6-6. Reliever Ty Goss got out of a jam by getting Mason Speaker to ground into a double play.
"These guys are always fighting, they are so much fun to coach,'' Thorpe said.
Goss threw four strong innings in relief for the Travelers, allowing only three hits in four innings. Starter Bowles didn't allow a hit, except for a single by Crooks to open the fourth. Santos picked up the win by holding Woodward scoreless in the eighth and ninth. He struck out Church in the ninth with runners on first and second.
Luke Roden, who walked four times, opened the scoring in the third when he walked and went all the way to third on a wild pitch. He scored on a ground out by Junior Torres.
Woodward tied the game in the fifth when Preston Ward reached on a fielder's choice and scored after singles by Christopher Goldston and Colton Hunter.
The Stix had gone up 4-1 with three runs in the bottom of the fifth on the strength of singles by Torres and Santos, two walks, an error and a sac fly by Guerrero.