The Madisonville baseball season came to an end last Wednesday with a 2-0 loss in a single-elimination matchup with Robinson in Cameron.
“I told the guys that they fought their guts out and reminded them of the legacy they’ve set in place for our program throughout this season,” said Madisonville baseball coach Keith Sitton after the game. “We talked about how well we pitched and defended to go toe-to-toe with a team that’s favored to make it back to the state tournament. There’s a lot of heart and character in our dugout, I was truly blessed to be a part of it.”
The Rockets wasted no time pouncing on Matt Rudis, who started his third game of the postseason on limited rest. Robinson’s Jordan Rogers ripped the first pitch he saw over the leftfield wall to leadoff the bottom of the first.
“(Rudis) could’ve succumbed to that adversity early,” said Sitton. “He was the Mustangs. He’s the biggest team player in that dugout and there wasn’t a doubt that he’d battle today.”
Naturally, Rudis would settle in and go on to toss another gem. But the Mustangs could never seem to get him back the run he surrendered early. Madisonville had at least one runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings against Robinson pitcher Braxton Ashcraft. This included a 1-out triple from Ben Phillips in the top of the first. The Mustangs could never come through with a key knock off of Ashcraft before he settled in.
After Rudis narrowly escaped a jam in the fifth inning to keep the deficit at 1, Will Hudson reached on a walk to leadoff the sixth. Courtesy runner Daniel Young entered the game and tried to advance to second on a ball that got away from the catcher. However, it didn’t get away far enough and Young second guessed his decision. In this moment of questioning, he was picked off on his way back to first base.
“That’s just baseball,” said Sitton on the play. “We want our guys to be aggressive with the ball in the dirt. There was some indecision and he got hung out. That happens, but you need to find a way to work through it. We also picked two of their guys off tonight, so things weren’t perfect on the basepaths for them either.”
Madisonville would eventually get Brad Rudis to third base with two outs in the inning after a walk, a wild pitch and a balk, but Matt Rudis grounded out sharply to shortstop to end the frame and one of the last true Mustang threats of the season.
The Mustangs needed to try and keep the score locked at 1-0 when the Rockets came to the plate in the bottom of the sixth. After Rudis retired the first two men, he then allowed a walk and a single to put an insurance run in scoring position. He was then relieved by Bryce Bennett, who allowed an RBI-single for the second run of the night.
Bryce Bennett and Kasey Williamson reached base and represented the tying runs for the Mustangs in the seventh, but Ashcraft dug in once more and retired the side for a complete game shutout.
The Mustangs baseball team completed the single most successful season in program history during 2018 with their wins over Taylor to advance past the Area round and into the Regional Quarters against Robinson. The Rockets will battle Jasper on Saturday with a trip to the state tournament on the line.
“These seniors will be impossible to replace,” said Sitton. “We’ll go out and do our best and try to get better in the future, but these guys are irreplaceable.”