Miears

Cole Miears, 6, fields a hard hit ball up the middle of the infield Thursday against Dripping Springs and throws the runner out at first.

DRIPPING SPRINGS— Coleson Abel’s throw from centerfield in the bottom of the seventh arrived a hair too late. By the time the ball sailed into sophomore catcher Travis White’s glove, Dripping Springs’ Ty Kaatz had already touched home plate. The umpire signaled safe, and the Tigers stormed out of the dugout to mob Nick Gullo, who had just cracked a walk-off single to lift Dripping Springs over Tivy, 2-1, in Game 1 of their regional-quarterfinals series.

The Antlers, meanwhile, slowly congregated along right-field foul line, waiting to hear coach Chris Russ’s postgame address.

Losing in walk-off fashion is always heart-breaking, but Thursday’s defeat especially stung. Truthfully, it should have been the Antlers celebrating on the Tigers’ home field. Their starter Abel had pitched a gem, helping the Antlers cling to a 1-0 lead in the sixth. But he encountered some trouble in the frame, loading the bases with two outs. That’s when things started going wrong for Tivy. Relief pitcher Cole Miears accidentally grazed his leg with the ball during his wind-up, causing him to commit a balk that drove in the tying run from third. With two outs in the seventh, third baseman Cooper Duennenberg zipped a throw that bounced past first baseman Brady Delgado, allowing the batter, Nathan Koch, to advance to second. That set the table for Gullo’s walk-off single that placed the Antlers’ season on the brink.

They will try to stave off elimination today when they host the Tigers in Game 2.

“I thought we outplayed them,” Russ said. “We hit the ball harder most of the game. At the end, we just didn’t make the plays when we had to. I told them that they let the moment of the game get bigger than them. In that situation, you have to be bigger than the moment.”

Thursday’s moment certainly wasn’t too grand for Abel. Russ knew Dripping Springs possessed several left-handed batters, so he decided to start his lefty in Game 1. It proved to be the right decision, as Abel continually used his curve ball to flummox the Tigers’ batters, limiting them to four hits while striking out six batters in 5.2 innings. At one point, he went 18 straight at-bats without allowing a ball to even leave the infield.

He even helped his own cause on the mound in the second, ripping a triple to the right-centerfield gap to score Jaeger.

But the Antlers’ offense soon stalled, mustering just one hit in the final four innings and opening the door for Dripping Springs to mount a late rally.

So yes, Game 1’s ending left a bitter taste in the Antlers’ mouth, especially since it spoiled Abel’s sterling performance. But with the first pitch of Game 2 less than 24 hours away, they don’t have too much time to brood over Game 1’s missed opportunities.

During his speech, Russ encouraged his players to flush Game 1 from their minds. After all, this series is far from over. The Antlers will start their ace (Brady Delgado), while Dripping Springs already started their best pitcher (Gullo) in Game 1. They have a good opportunity to win the next twogames; they just have to execute.

“We are kind of down right now,” Abel said. “We will get on the bus, and like coach said, we have to have a short-term memory. We have to get the next two.”

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