When the month of May arrives in Texas, only the best spring high school athletes and teams are still competing. And last year, for the first time in memory, Nolan County was not represented at the state track meet in Austin.
But 2013 has been differ-ent â€” dare we say special? On May 1, not only did the county have a dozen athletes preparing for the state track meet â€” thanks to the UILâ€™s announcement that day that four local â€świld cardâ€ť qualifiers had been added by virtue of having the stateâ€™s best third-place regional times or distances â€” but Sweetwaterâ€™s baseball and softball teams were both still alive and kicking in May for the first time in school history.
The Lady Mustangs â€” after capturing their first bi-district championship with an 11-1 win over Pecos â€” saw their season end Friday with a 5-0 loss to Pampa. But the Mustang baseball team is still alive after win-ning an exhilirating best-of-3 playoff with Fabens for their first bi-district title since 2004 â€” also the last time that Sweetwater base-ball made the playoffs.
To get past Fabens, Sweet-water had to dig deep â€” and also had to rely on a few players who normally donâ€™t see much action.
When the teamâ€™s regular catcher, Sean Morrow, had to miss Game 2 and the start of Game 3 due to a prior commitment, first Bray Amos and then Hayden Reeves took over and did an admirable job. The same is true of outfielder Gabriel Melendez, who got a chance to start in the outfield in the third and decisive game.
Amos went 2-for-4 at the plate with a double in Game 2, and picked off Fabensâ€™ Jacob Pacheco at first base after he drew a leadoff walk in the first inning. And in Game 3, he scored what proved to be the winning run by stealing home.
Melendez, meanwhile, had a perfect day at the plate â€” he went 2-for-2 including a walk in Game 3 â€” after not play-ing in the first two games of the series.Stephen May, who was the Game 3 starting pitcher after seeing very little action on the mound since before the start of district, also did a solid job as he allowed just three earned runs and was in line to be the winning pitcher when he was replaced by Cole Maxwell in the sixth inning.
Morrow, incidentally, did make it back in time for most of Game 3 after going to College Station following Friday nightâ€™s playoff opener to be part of a meat judging team at a state FFA contest. He arrived there by car about 2:30 a.m. Saturday, participated in the judging about 5 1/2 hours later, then skipped the awards ceremony to fly to Houston before switching planes and flying from there to Odessa, which is about 30 minutes from Crane where this week-endâ€™s playoff was held.
Morrow got to Odessa a little before 5 p.m., which is when Game 3 began, and was in Sweetwaterâ€™s dugout by the second inning. All that travel didnâ€™t seem to affect him too much, as he ripped an RBI double in his first at bat.
Of course, the ending of Saturdayâ€™s Game 3 wonâ€™t soon be forgotten by those who saw it.
Sweetwater, which had led for most of the game, appeared to be on the ropes in the sixth inning as Fabens used an error, two singles and three straight walks to tie the game at 6-6. But Maxwell, after a shaky start, came back to retire the next five hitters in order and got the win, thanks to that steal of home by Amos.