History was made on Friday afternoon at Dell Diamond as McKinney Boyd and Ridge Point battled in a 6A state semifinal game.
It marked the first trip to the UIL State Tournament for both programs, and the nerves were apparent as both teams committed some uncharacteristic errors. Despite four defensive miscues and falling behind early, the Ridge Point Panthers clinched their first appearance in a state championship game with a 5-2 win.
“We’re ecstatic, it feels great,” Panthers head coach Clinton Welch said. “I think we played a little nervous at times, but we did what we’ve been doing. We’ve come from behind quite a bit on the journey to Round Rock and they keep finding ways to battle back.”
McKinney Boyd had to do a lot of fighting of its own to make it to state. In every series except the bi-district round, the Broncos lost game one and came back to take games two and three to advance. Knowing there would be no more games without an opening win, Boyd came out swinging and took a 2-0 lead after three and a half innings.
Junior Beau Brewer drove in the first Bronco run with a RBI sacrifice fly in the first and junior Dawson Goheen came around to score in the fourth thanks to one of four Ridge Point errors.
In the bottom half of the fourth, the Panthers came to life. Back to back walks and a Boyd error loaded the bases for junior Jacob Garcia, who then sent a RBI single to left to force a pitching change. Goheen came on in relief of starter Jack Hagan and recorded two quick outs, but Jack Baker ripped a two-out, bases-clearing single to center. A throwing error by the centerfielder allowed the third run to score and Baker to advance to second.
Baker came up big again in the sixth with a RBI sacrifice fly to put the Panthers up 5-2.
“(I was thinking) just put the barrel to the ball, stay up the middle and hit it hard,” Baker said. “It was pretty great, definitely hyped me up and got the team going in the right direction. (Playing tomorrow will be) exciting, we’re going to take advantage of the moment and try out best to win it.”
Ridge Point’s starter, junior ace Hayde Key, settled down once his team took the lead. He worked quickly in the fifth and sixth innings and looked poised to throw a complete game after two quick outs in the top of the seventh. An error by the shortstop on a high pop fly to end the game forced Welch to pull him due to pitch count.
“(Hayde’s) been our workhorse and he did a great job again,” Welch said. “Unfortunately he didn’t get that last out, but he did what he’s been doing and Dylan Bobo came in and picked him up.”
Junior Dylan Bobo took over on the mound and walked the first batter faced to load the bases. A nice play by Baker at second recorded the final out and clinched the first ever championship game berth for the Panthers.
“The goal was to come here and try to win it and we escaped this one. Hopefully we play a little cleaner tomorrow and make it a little bit easier,” Welch said.
Ridge Point will play the winner of the Southlake Carroll and Lake Travis semifinal Saturday at 4 p.m. at Dell Diamond.
THSB Player of the Game: Jack Baker, Jr, INF (2-for-3, 3 RBI)