Madisonville baseball became the first team in program history to advanced past the Area round of the postseason with two wins over Taylor on Friday and Saturday in Bryan.
The Mustangs stormed back to take game one 8-6 in comeback fashion and rode another performance for the ages from pitcher Matt Rudis in a 1-0 victory in game two.
“It’s a great accomplishment that speaks to the kids we have here,” said Coach Keith Sitton after game two. “Regardless of what success we’ve had I just love being around them. To me, that makes this all more special and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
The series got off to a rocky start. The Ducks exploded out of the gates with 5 runs in the top of the first inning off of starting pitcher Bryce Bennett and reliever Zach Poe, including a three-run homerun.
“We have a senior heavy team that has played a lot of baseball,” said Sitton. “They’ve been in difficult situations like this before. It was the first inning and I think everybody in the dugout knew there was no reason to panic.”
The Mustangs wasted no time getting back into the fight. After a leadoff walk to Brad Rudis and a single by Matt Rudis, Bryce Bennett knocked another base hit to right-centerfield for Madisonville’s first score of the series. Two more would cross the plate in the second after a Taylor throwing error.
Errors would continue to plague the Ducks throughout game one, particularly in the bottom third. Three infield errors loaded the bases for the Mustangs with just one out and a walk cut the deficit to 1. After Corey Shuck tied the game with a groundout, Kasey Williamson would give Madisonville their first lead of the game with an RBI-single to right-center.
Ben Phillips delivered what would prove to be the most critical knock of the game with two outs and a 1-run lead. He laced a double down the left field line to give the Mustangs an 8-5 advantage early. They would not look back.
“He threw it pretty high, and I’m usually not the best with high pitches,” said Phillips. “I ended up getting a good piece of the ball and it found an opening so some guys could come home. As for the deficit, we know what we can do. We just had to stay confident and keep chipping away at it.”
All the while, Madisonville pitching settled in nicely. Poe pitched out of key jams throughout his outing and allowed just one more run after the first. This afforded the Mustangs plenty of opportunities to fight their way back offensively and earned him the win in game one.
The 8-6 lead was handed to Brandon Larson to protect in the final three innings. The Ducks put the tying run at second base with two outs in the top of the seventh, but Larson got his man when he needed to and nailed down the extended save.
“Even when we were down big we knew we still had to have a lot of energy in the dugout,” said Larson. “At the end, I knew I had to get that man. I had a lot of confidence and was able to strike him out.”
Unlike game one, offense was very hard to find on Saturday afternoon. This was especially true for Taylor, who managed just one hit off of Matt Rudis.
Madisonville, who played the road team, scored the lone run of the day in the top of the second inning. Will Hudson started the threat with a sharp single right back up the middle of the infield. Brad Rudis then moved Daniel Young, Hudson’s courtesy runner, into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.
The stage was set for Corey Schuck, who did his job when he lifted a fly ball down the left field line near foul ground. The sacrifice fly brought home a run and gave Madisonville a 1-0 lead. While they had more chances throughout the afternoon to plate another, they could never quite get the big hit. But just like he did in the Bi-district round against Hillsboro, Rudis proved it was all he’d need.
While the dominant result was what fans have grown used to, Rudis had a different approach to his Area outing. In order to keep his pitch count down, he was aggressive and went right after his opponents and counted on the defenders behind him to have his back. They did not disappoint.
“These guys did everything I could’ve ever asked for, it’s a whole different ball game without them” said Rudis of his teammates. “This team is so special to me and I love them. They deserved to make history.”
Taylor’s best chance came in the bottom of the fifth with runners at second a third with two outs. But the runner from third left early, which allowed Rudis to step off and make the throw home for an anticlimactic finish to their main threat. He allowed another baserunner to reach via walk to leadoff the seventh, but retired the next three to clinch the series in two games.
After the first in game one, the Mustangs outscored Taylor 9-1 through 13 innings.
Madisonville is now into the Regional Quarters and will battle Robinson in a single-elimination game at 7 p.m. in Cameron tonight. The winner will face either Bridge City or Jasper in the Regional Semis.