The Madisonville baseball team used complete game, shutout performances from Matt Rudis and Bryce Bennett to eliminate Hillsboro on Friday and advance to the Area round of the postseason.
The best of three series was originally scheduled to begin on the road, but poor weather in Hillsboro on Thursday prevented game one to take place. Instead, games one and two were moved to Madisonville on Friday night and a third game would’ve been played Saturday if necessary.
The Mustangs wouldn’t break out offensively until game two, but they managed to plate the only run of the series opener in the very first inning. Sam Bennett ledoff the game with a sharp single and quickly came around to third. He was driven home on a sacrifice fly by Ben Phillips.
This was all Rudis would need. He allowed a total of four baserunners outside of two errors, three reached on hits and one via walk, and he struck out 10, or nearly half of the men he retired. Hillsboro put two men on base in the third and fifth innings, but Rudis pitched out of every jam the presented itself to preserve the win.
“I knew I just to stick with my stuff and I’d be successful,” said Rudis. “I have a great catcher back there and teammates behind me so I just had to stay relaxed when they had runners in scoring position and I knew I’d be okay.”
Bryce Bennett also struckout 10 Hillsboro batters and did it in just five innings. The Mustangs assumed the role of the road team for game two despite playing in their own stadium, but the offense embraced the change and ensured an early night with a 10-0 mercy-rule win.
No Mustang had a more effective night at the plate than Zach Poe. After two hits in game one, Poe added three more in the nightcap and drove home three runs. He brought home the first run of the game with a rip down the leftfield line in the top of the first.
Hillsboro pitching was never able to retire Poe in either contest. All told, he was 5-for-5 on the night with two runs scored and three driven in. He also reached base via walk in the opening game. Matt Rudis was also exceptional from the plate as well as the mound. He drove home four runs in game two.
While the offense padded the lead, Bryce Bennett put forth a truly dominant performance. Besides earning 10 of his 15 outs on putouts, he only allowed one free pass and two hits on the night.
“Before the game I had a lot of confidence and was focused on hitting the zone,” said Bryce Bennett. “Obviously my teammates gave me a nice cushion offensively, so that worked out. I was able to just forget about any runner that reached early and focus on the hitter and working the zone.”
Hillsboro’s best chance to score off Bennett came in the bottom of the first with a one-out triple. However, he was able to pitch out of it and preserve what was a 1-0 lead at the time.
With Friday’s victories, the Mustangs advance to the Area playoffs to face the Taylor Ducks. The Ducks competed in a single elimination Bi-district round with Giddings and won 11-1. The round between Madisonville and Taylor will be another best of three series and take place at a neutral site in Bryan. Game one will take place on Friday at 7 p.m. and game two on Saturday at 2 p.m. If necessary, a third game to decide the series will follow Saturday’s game two. The winner will advance to play either Robinson or Liberty Hill in the Regional Quarterfinals.