Clutch city: Wolverines advance past Highland Park with Game 3 victory
GRAND PRAIRIE -- Wakeland found itself in a tight situation after dropping Thursday night's Game 1 against Highland Park in the regional quarterfinals best-of-3 series.
The Wolverines came through when it mattered most though and won back-to-back games, including a 4-3 comeback victory in the third and decisive game on Saturday.
"I just wanted them to compete every pitch and we'll see how it shakes out in the end," said Barry Rose, Wakeland head coach.
After senior Willie Schwanke pitched the Wolverines to a win in Friday night's Game 2, Wakeland ran sophomore Austin Gehle to the mound for Saturday's Game 3.
Gehle didn't last long, as Highland Park scored three runs in the first inning before getting the first two men on during the second frame.
The sophomore hurler's outing ended after surrendering three runs on five hits and one walk during one-plus inning of work.
"[Gehle] didn't quite have it today," Rose said.
With Schwanke and senior ace pitcher Hayden Nixon unavailable after pitching the first two games of the series, Rose turned to junior Cameron Brockhoff to take over for Gehle on the hill and Brockhoff made the most of his opportunity.
After earning the win in Game 3 of the bidistrict round against McKinney North, Brockhoff immediately made his presence felt on the mound on Saturday.
Coming into a jam with two runners on base and no outs, Brockhoff retired the first two batters he faced before getting a two-out grounder from right fielder Ryan Romo to get out of a based-loaded jam.
"[Brockhoff] threw it well earlier in the year," Rose said. "He's been better in relief situations but he got on a good run today."
Trailing by three runs before taking one at bat, the Wolverines showed no panic and came back with a two-run inning of their own during the home half of the first.
The inning began with a leadoff walk to Nixon before senior second baseman Justin Swanner came through with a two-out RBI double to score one.
Sophomore catcher Seth Mullis followed Swanner with an RBI double of his own in the next at bat to trim Wakeland's deficit to 3-2 after one inning.
"We had a cold stretch at the plate during district," Rose said. "We're swinging the bats better now."
Both pitcher's found a rhythm at that point and neither team was able to score in the second, third and fourth innings.
However, Highland Park nearly got its first run off Brockhoff during the bottom of the fourth after senior Chris McDade followed a two-out walk to junior third baseman Dylan May with a double to deep center.
May tried to go from first to home as Harrington hit cutoff man Grant Devore before Devore threw home and allowed Mullis to apply the tag at the plate.
"Devore just didn't want to sail it and he one-hopped it," Rose said. "[Mullis] made a good play on it and was able to get the out."
The play kept the game a one-run contest and Wakeland tied the game at three runs apiece during the next inning.
With Highland Park senior hurler Matthew Milburn issuing walks to Nixon and Schwanke and surrendering a single to Devore, the Wolverines loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth inning.
Swanner and Mullis failed to drive in a run during the following two at bats but Brockhoff helped his own cause at the plate by reaching base on a throwing error to score the tying run.
"At this points, you just have to learn how to stay in the game and stay in the moment," Rose said.
Brockhoff then retired the side in order during the top of the sixth and gave Wakeland a chance to take the lead.
The Wolverines did exactly that with a clutch one-out RBI double from Harrington that scored first baseman Johnny Gonzalez and put Wakeland ahead, 4-3.
"[Harrington] takes a lot of pitches," Rose said. "Sometimes it hurts him. But he got a good pitch to hit and got on it."
Milburn limited the damage in the inning after getting Nixon and Devore to pop up in consecutive at bats to end the inning.
However, Brockhoff would close the game out in the top of the seventh, despite putting one runner on base.
With two outs and a man at first, Brockhoff struck out Romo to end the game and send the Wolverines into the regional semifinals.
"Both teams just competed all series long," Rose said.
The victory put Wakeland's season mark at 27-10 and a matchup against Waxahachie or Corsicana now awaits.
"It's two good programs," Rose said. "They're both good teams."
Specifics of the semifinals round had not been determined as of press time.
"It's all about getting hot at the right time in the playoffs," Rose said.