Brady Delgado didn’t reveal a single emotion while operating on the mound Friday night. Never once did the Tivy senior flash anything resembling a grin as he mowed down the Tigers’ lineup; never once did he venture to celebrate. He just simply maintained the same solemn expression and calmly returned to the Antlers’ dugout after each scoreless inning.
“Pitching is a game of composure,” Delgado said. “You have to get your poker face on and get the job done.”
He continued to sport that poker face throughout Tivy’s Game 2 against the Tigers in the regional quarterfinals — until the final out of the seventh inning. When Tivy first baseman Coleson Abel fielded Tigers’ pitcher RJ Cabella’s chopper and planted his foot on first base, sealing the Antlers’ 3-0 win over the Tigers, Delgado finally smiled, leaping off the ground and pumping his fist at the height of his jump. He then raced to hug junior shortstop Cole Miears and shared another long embrace with catcher Travis White.
Delgado’s gem on Friday encapsulated his overall performance this entire season. He pulled his hamstring last weekend in the area round against Alamo Heights, but he didn’t allow the injury to bother him on Friday, tossing his fifth complete game and third shutout of the season.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, he’s navigated adversity all season.
After playing on two of the best teams in Tivy history during his sophomore and junior seasons, he’s had to help lead a rebuild in his final year at Tivy. The Antlers struggled at times this season, but Delgado’s attitude never soured. Instead, he found ways to carry Tivy to wins, posting a 1.92 ERA in 75 innings.
“He’s everything to us,” junior Colten Drake said. “Every time he goes out on the mound, we can count on him to throw strikes. And we can just trust him to get the job done.”
Thanks to Delgado’s performance on Friday, the Antlers’ are now one game away from advancing to the regional semifinals for the third straight year. They will try to clinch the series in Game 3 at home today at 2 p.m. In all likelihood, Friday marked the last time Delgado will ever pitch on Tivy’s field (If the Antlers advance, they will likely play their remaining games at neutral sites). He admitted that thought crossed his mind entering Friday’s start, so he made sure his final career home start ranked among one of his best. Around 600 spectators packed the stands to watch Delgado’s masterpiece. He only permitted three base runners, limiting the Tigers to two hits and issuing just one walk. He only struck out two batters, but attacked the bottom of strike zone to induce soft grounders and pop ups.
He only sputtered once during the game, tossing seven straight balls in the second. Tivy coach Chris Russ told Delgado to pitch for contact and trust his defense to make a play. Delgado followed his coach’s instructions, retiring 15 out of the final 16 batters he faced.
“It was an outstanding performance,” Russ said. “Brady came out and was just unbelievable. He attacked the zone and only walked one guy. You can’t say anything more about that guy. If it was his last home game pitching, it was a really, really good one. ... He’s had an unbelievable year. I will miss him next year.”
The Antlers only needed one run to support Delgado on Friday. They supplied him three in the fourth. White began the scoring onslaught by drawing a one-out walk. Miears moved him to second by cracking a single over the second baseman’s head, sending Drake to the plate. Drake unloaded on Cabella’s first offering, launching an inside fastball to the right-field gap for a RBI double. When he arrived at second, Drake turned toward the cheering crowd and motioned with his hands for them to roar louder.
“To get that first run was really important,” Drake said. “The team got excited and the crowd got into it.”
Two batters later, junior Cole Mixon gave Tivy fans another reason to holler. The Tigers committed two blunders during Mixon’s at-bat. Their outfielders played shallow, believing Mixon didn’t have the strength to drive a pitch deep into the outfield. That was their first mistake. Cabell then hung a curve. That was mistake No. 2. Mixon muscled the 0-1 pitch over the left fielder Aidan Seligman’s head, scoring both Miears and Drake to give Delgado some insurance runs.
“They hadn’t really seen Mixon a lot,” Russ said. “They may not have known what kind of power he had. They do now.”
The final three innings remained drama-free. Delgado coughed up a one-out single to Zach Tjelmeland in the fifth, but then baited the next batter, Ty Kaatz, into chopping a soft grounder to Miears that triggered an inning-ending double play. Delgado then moved down the final six batters to cement the win.
After Delgado had finished celebrating with his teammates, he turned toward the applauding fans and waved, thanking them one more time for their support.
He will likely play his final home game today. Russ hadn’t decided who he was going to start on Friday night, but three pitchers (Travis White, Colten Drake and Coleson Abel) will all be available. Delgado is hoping for another reason to ditch his poker face, hoping for another reason to celebrate with his teammates.
“Guys did their job tonight. I love this team,” Delgado said. “I didn’t want the last game I ever played here to be a loss, and that’s the same mentality tomorrow too. We are going to come out and get the job done again.”