Generals can't hold off East Texas for TCL title
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KILGORE - Things started out looking good for the Generals.
Three runs on a hit, two hit batters and a walk. A painful start, but not a bad one.
But East Texas wasn't so easily defeated.
The Pump Jacks overcame a three-run deficit early and then adhered to a season-long pitching recipe for success to earn a 7-4 win over the Victoria Generals on Wednesday in the TCL championship series' deciding game at Driller Park. East Texas, a playoff team in its first four seasons, was finally able to hoist the championship hardware in season No. 5 after Hallsville native Jason Jester mowed the Generals down with three strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth to touch off a wild celebration near the pitcher's mound.
"This means everything," said Jester, who notched his 20th save of the season to extend his TCL record in that category. "To win it here. ...this just goes out to these fans. They're the greatest fans and this is the best summer league team in baseball."
Jester, working in a non-save situation on Tuesday when the Pump Jacks notched a 7-4 win to stay alive in the series, needed 30 pitches in that outing. On Wednesday, he threw just 11 pitches - 10 for strikes - and struck out the side after working around a two-out single.
"I think I was just a little over-anxious Tuesday," Jester said. "I think the extra pressure (of a save situation) helps me."
The Pump Jacks finished the season with a 41-22 record under head coach Ben Taylor, who three games into this season - his fourth with the team - became the TCL's all-time winner among coaches.
"This whole season has been a grind," Taylor said. "A lot of stuff has happened, but the great thing is the kids held it together all year. They earned this. It means the world to me to finally get this. This is what I came here to do four years ago, and we're happy to get this for our fans."
Victoria finishes the season 38-24.
East Texas' Corey Ray settled down and worked into the fourth before Jacob Lindgren relieved him. Lindgren, who got the win to improve to 3-5, worked 2 2/3 before the "Three Amigos" of Jeff Stovall, Gerardo Esquivel and Jester pitched an inning apiece to close out the game.
"We didn't panic, but we were a little frustrated," Taylor said. "We knew if we could keep it close we would be OK, and once we get a lead after the sixth with those three coming in we like our chances. Hats off to Corey Ray for settling down and keeping it close and to Jacob Lindgren for holding it there until we got the bats going."
Tyler Schnuriger (2-5) pitched 5 1/3 solid innings in the loss for the Generals.
East Texas finally got to Schnuriger in the bottom of the third when Louie Helmburg and Kevin O'Leary lashed back-to-back doubles. O'Leary's double plated Helmburg, and he came around to score on Tyler Sullivan's broken-bat single to right. O'Leary finished the night 3-for-3 with a pair of RBIs.
The Pump Jacks took the lead for good with a four-run sixth that included a three-run error and a bit of controversy.
R.J. Santigate got aboard on a fielder's choice, and Taylor Murphy followed with a one-out fly ball to left. Generals' right fielder Alex Klonkowski ran the ball down in the corner, but wasn't able to hold on. Santigate scored from second, but umpires originally ruled a catch and double play before overturning the decision. New pitcher James Ferguson walked Logan Preston and later issued a two-out walk to Helmburg to load the bases. O'Leary greeted new pitcher Dallas Ponder with a sharp single to deep shortstop, and all three runners scored when the ball was thrown away at first base to give East Texas a 6-3 lead.