Two of the 2018 UIL Baseball State Champions have defended their crowns in this year’s tournament.
Southlake Carroll has a chance to be the third after a 6-2 semifinal win over Lake Travis on Friday night at Dell Diamond. It would cap a perfect playoff run for the Dragons as they haven’t lost a postseason game.
“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Carroll head coach Larry Vucan said. “The resiliency of this club is phenomenal. We were struggling… but then they started grinding out at-bats and put balls in play and just get some big hits. They didn’t get down.”
The Dragons got on the board quickly in the top of the first behind a leadoff double by junior Yanluis Ortiz and a RBI single by senior Austin Hale, but they left the bases loaded. Lake Travis answered with a single run of its own in the bottom half of the frame and also stranded three runners.
Both starting pitchers, Cutter Sippel for Carroll and Brett Baty for Lake Travis, kept the scoreboard empty for the next two innings with help from their defenses.
The Cavaliers figured Sippel out by the fourth. A few free passes and a RBI single from junior Jack Lopez put Lake Travis up 2-1 and marked the end of the night for the senior pitcher. Sophomore Luke Gornell entered in relief and pitched 3.1 stellar innings, allowing just two hits and giving up no runs or walks with two strikeouts to earn the win.
“Before the start of the seventh back in the dugout I said ‘You ready to go buddy? This is your time’ and he put his arm around me and goes ‘Coach, how much fun is this?’ so that’s when I knew we’d be okay,” Vucan said of Gornell. “He’s a trooper… he’s just up there playing with the ball.”
Carroll tied the contest in the sixth thanks to a leadoff single from junior Justin Grech, a double by Ortiz and a RBI sacrifice fly from Hale. Baty reached his pitch count after the first third of the inning and was replaced by junior Storm Heirholzer. Baty finished the night with nine strikeouts in 5.1 innings of work.
Heirholzer recorded two quick strikeouts to end the sixth, but he wasn’t as successful in the top of the seventh. The Dragons pounded him for five hits and scored four runs before forcing him out of the game. Ortiz picked up his third hit of the contest in the barrage and two big RBI to give Carroll a 6-2 lead. Junior Kal Edmunson took over on the mound for Lake Travis and worked a clean 0.2 innings, but the damage had been done.
“It felt great, this is what we worked for and we’re happy,” Ortiz said. “It’s a feeling that I cannot describe. It’s special because we don’t have many returners and we’ve been working hard so it’s great.”
Gornell forced three straight Lake Travis groundouts in the bottom of the seventh to seal the win. Southlake Carroll will take on Ridge Point on Saturday at 4 p.m. as they try to win a second consecutive championship.
THSB Player of the Game: Yanluis Ortiz, Jr, C (3-for-4, 2 RBI, 2 CS)