It’s hard to imagine that anything could top the first 3A state semifinal between Wall and Kirbyville, which went nine innings with a walk-off winner.
It could have just been matched in the second tilt as Blanco took down Van Alstyne, also in walk-off fashion, 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning from the Dell Diamond in Round Rock.
With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the frame, Justin Wardlow was up to the plate. The senior had fallen behind in the count 0-2, but managed to work back. He then got a pitch he was expecting, and lifted a deep fly out to center, which was good enough to easily score a speedy Eddie Calzoncit from third.
“The approach was to hit a first-pitch fastball somewhere deep,” said Wardlow on his at-bat. “But, I did fall behind 0-2, but came back to 2-2. I felt like a curveball was coming, so I just drove it to center field.”
What is sometimes overlooked in big-time games is the strong defensive performances. Blanco turned a total of three double plays and had a highlight diving catch and throw by shortstop Griffin Johnson in what was a sterling, no-error effort.
“We knew all year that we were pretty tight up the middle, we have good arms in the outfield and we have a great catcher,” said Blanco head coach Bryan Wyatt. “We just have to let them hit it. I don’t think a team will come out and gets hits constantly one after the other. If we get ground ball, we will get outs.”
“The entire year for us has been the defense,” added Wardlow. “Overall, we don’t make many errors, so if our hitting can come through we are going to be just fine.”
Van Alstyne starter AJ Briscoe gave up a run in the first and third as the Panther fell behind 2-0 early. He settled in from there, throwing up four consecutive zeros in the final four frames. Briscoe walked three batters and struck out another three.
“He gutted it out,” Wyatt said of his pitcher. “He is our senior and he is our go-to guy. He was effectively wild but had a great game tonight.
Blanco had eight hits on the evening and four of those came from lead-off man Eddie Calzoncit. He led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a triple to the right-center wall and also started the bottom of the seventh with a single up the middle. Calzoncit also stole two bases.
“That is why he leads off,” said Wyatt on his lead-off batter. “He can run and he can fly. He can do it all. He’s our guy.”
Blanco now advances to take on Wall in the 3A state championship. Neither program has won a state championship.
“Being the third time in the history of Blanco to get here means so much,” said Wardlow. “It would be the first time ever if we could win, so that would be nice.”
Blanco Top Performers
Eddie Calzoncit, 4-4, 1 3B, 2 R, 2 SB
Justin Wardlow, Walk-Off RBI
Zach Smith, 2-3, 1 R
AJ Briscoe, 7 IP, 9 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 3 K
Van Alstyne Top Performers
Tyler Wilson, 3-3, 1 R, 1 BB
Rhett Gallagher, 2-3, 1 BB
Zach Smith, 2-3, 2 RBI
Chandler David, 6.1 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 BB, 5 K