SAN ANTONIO — The Kenedy Lions dropped a 4-1 decision to Johnson City in Game 1 of their Class 2A regional semifinal series Thursday at H-E-B Field.
Right from the start, the game was a pitcher’s duel between Kenedy’s LJ Barrientez and Johnson City’s McCray Jacobs.
Each set the tone by retiring the side in the first, and Barrientez struck out all three batters.
Kenedy struck first in the top of the second inning with, with Rylan Reyna on third and Owen Garcia at first.
Kenedy head coach Gualberto Gonzalez sent Reyna home on the pitcher’s first move. When Jacobs attempted a pickoff at first base Reyna dashed for the plate and was safe to give the Lions a 1-0 lead.
“We knew that we had to get runs and we had the opportunity,” Gonzalez said. “I told Rylan as soon as he picks his leg up take off and we were going to bunt anyway, we had to be aggressive on the bases, we can’t sit back and wait, we had to be aggressive and get runs.”
The Lions would quickly give up the lead after a walk, balk, wild pitch and sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the second tied the score at one.
In the bottom of the third a leadoff walk followed by a triple from the Eagles leadoff hitter Johnny Slawinski gave the Eagles a lead they would not relinquish. Slawinski would score on a sacrifice fly two batters later and the Eagles would double their lead to 3-1.
With a two-run lead, Jacobs settled in and was nearly untouchable in the final four innings. Jacobs allowed just one base runner and threw over 10 pitches in an inning just once, making quick work of the Kenedy lineup.
“He was really, really efficient,” Gonzalez said of Jacobs’ performance. “He did a really good job of keeping us off balance at the plate and we just couldn’t come up with timely hits when we had runners on.”
After the third inning. Barrientez settled down. Walks were the only issue, as he had six in 5.2 innings of work, but when he was in the strike zone he gave the Eagles trouble, allowing just three hits.
“I thought he pitched really well, but any time you walk and hit batters that’s going to come back and bite you,” Gonzalez said of Barrientez. “I thought he pitched a really good game, I’m proud of his efforts, he did a good job.”
If the Lions were going to mount a comeback it felt like it had to happen in the bottom of the sixth with the top of the order due up.
Karsen Reyes singled through the right side of the infield and brought the tying run to the plate with one out with the third and fourth hole hitters David Salas and Reyna due up.
A bunt from Salas gave Reyna a chance to cut into the lead with a runner in scoring position, but a strikeout ended the inning.
Johnson City would follow that with a solo home run from Josh McKennis on the first pitch of the bottom half of the inning to make it 4-1 and Jacobs would secure the final three outs to take Game 1.
“The adjustment is to bounce back, hit the ball and get to Game 3,” Gonzalez said of his team going into Saturday. “One thing about our kids is they’re resilient, they’re not going to quit and we’ll be alright.”
Game 2 of the series is set for 4 p.m. Saturday at H-E-B Field. If the Lions win Game 2, Game 3 will take place following the conclusion of Game 2.
Class 2A Regional Semifinal
Johnson City 4, Kenedy 1
Kenedy 010 000 0 – 1 4 0
Johnson City 012 001 x – 4 3 0
W: McCray Jacobs L: LJ Barrientez. Highlights: (KEN) LJ Barrientez 5.2 IP’s 6 K’s, 4 R’s; Rylan Reyna 1-for-3 R, SB; Owen Garcia 1-for-3; Karsen Reyes 1-for-3; Daniel Pena 1-for-3 SB. (JC) McCray Jacobs 7 IP’s 7 K’s, 1 R, 1 BB 4 H’s 0-for-1 Sac Fly RBI, BB; Johnny Slawinski 1-for-4 3B, RBI, R; Josh McKennis 1-for-1 HR, RBI, 2 BB’s, 2 R’s; Reid Weirich 1-for-2 R. Records: Kenedy 27-7, Johnson City 24-7.