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Gobblers' season ends on walk-off double

By Taylor Mitchell
May 17, 2014 at 12:17 a.m.

For the Cuero baseball team, there may not have been a higher moment in the season than the one that came in the top of the seventh inning of Saturday's decisive Class 3A regional quarterfinal game.

In one play, the Gobblers scored three runs on two throwing errors to take a 7-6 lead over La Vernia in the third game of a series at Riverside Stadium.

In baseball, though, high moments can quickly turn into low ones. For Cuero, its high moment lasted just three batters.

Following a throwing error and a walk, La Vernia's Christian Bruce sent D'mond LaFond's pitch into centerfield, allowing two runs to score and giving the Bears the series victory.

"That's baseball for you," Cuero senior Austin Johnson said. "You can be at the highest point of your life and feel great, and then 10 minutes later, it can shut you down to the lowest point."

"It's an emotional game. There are lots of ups and downs," Cuero coach Phil Schwarz said. "If you ask me if we'd rather have not come back, I'd say no. I'm glad we came back. I'm glad the kids kept fighting and showing heart. It just didn't work out for us in the end. That's the way it goes sometimes."

The Gobblers faced a 6-3 deficit with just three outs left in their season as game three turned to the seventh inning. Reid Schiffbauer led off getting hit by a pitch and moved into scoring position with Garrett Veit's left field single. Two batters later, Johnson drove in Schiffbauer on a single to center field.

"I wasn't worried, and I don't think any of our other players were worried about coming back," Johnson said.

Johnson's RBI made the score 6-4 and set the Gobblers up for the second-most exciting play of the day.

After Clint Davis drew a walk to load the bases with two outs, LaFond came to the plate with a chance to put Cuero ahead.

With the count at 2-2, LaFond hit a hard groundball to La Vernia shortstop Tanner Sims, who wasn't able to cleanly field the ball. Sims then overthrew his second baseman and the ball went flying into the outfield. The error allowed Joey Baker and Johnson to score and tie the game.

The Bears, however, missed the throw in from right field and Davis was able to round third and head home to score the go-ahead run.

"At the time, I thought we had tied the game," Davis, a senior, said. So, when I got across the plate and looked at the scoreboard, I saw we were up by one. It was unreal."

Schwarz was just wanting to get the go-ahead run across home plate.

"I noticed they had thrown it away, and for some reason the right fielder didn't see the ball," he said. "So, I waved (Davis) home."

But the lead wouldn't hold up in the bottom of the seventh inning and, as quickly as the lead had come, the Gobblers' season was over.

"You know, you jump up on them by one run, but you still have to go out there and get three outs and not let them get back ahead," Davis said. "There's no real way to describe that, especially in the last game of the season. It's heartbreaking."

Davis played a big role in keeping Cuero in game three. Starting pitcher Levi Jones was pulled after 3 2/3 innings of work and La Vernia holding a 6-2 lead. Davis came in and shut down the Bears', allowing just one hit and striking out six batters.

"Coming in, it was all about throwing strikes," Davis said. "I know my defense could work if they put the ball in play, and we got the outs. There really wasn't much challenge to it except to put the ball across the plate."

LaFond, who had recorded to series-clinching appearances in the playoffs, entered the game after the first two batters in the bottom of the seventh inning.

For much of the playoffs, the Gobblers have been coming from behind. In their first two series, the Gobblers went to a third game and pulled off the win, with LaFond securing the victories.

The start of Saturday was a similar situation for Cuero, who dropped Game 1 of the series against La Vernia 6-4.

"Just to be aggressive and swing the bats - that's been our mindset," Schwarz said. "For some reason, we hit the ball better in the day time."

The Gobblers proved their coach right in Game 2 Saturday when they recorded 13 hits in a 9-2 win. Johnson earned the win on the mound, pitching six innings and allowing just one earned run and struck out four batters.



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