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LUBBOCK â€” One day, maybe soon, the members of the Sweetwater baseball team will step back and realize what an amazing season theyâ€™ve had.
But now that it has finally ended, most of them prob-ably think they should still be playing.
After rallying from a 4-0 deficit to take leads of 5-4 and 6-5 late in Saturdayâ€™s contest, the Mustangs simply couldnâ€™t put Andrews away in their Region I-3A quarterfinal series at Lubbock Christian University.
Andrews â€” which is also known as the Mustangs â€” rallied to tie the game both times and force extra innings, then used a Trevor Badgett walkoff single in the bottom of the eighth inning to end Sweetwaterâ€™s year in dramatic fashion with a 7-6 victory.
Andrews (23-15) won the best-of-3 series 2-0, with both wins â€” including Fridayâ€™s 4-3 victory â€” by a single run, and will play Stephenville in the I-3A semifinals. In fact, all four Andrews-Sweetwater games this season were decided by one run. Sweetwater â€” which snapped a nine-year postseason drought and equalled the programâ€™s longest playoff run since baseball was resumed in 1988 â€” finishes the year at 19-16.
Sweetwater, on the very same field, had knocked out Pampa in the Class 3A area playoffs a week earlier.
Yet it had just one hit Saturday until exploding for five runs and six hits in the sixth inning to wipe out a 4-0 deficit.
Cole Maxwell was hit by a pitch and Dylan Bennett and Stephen May singled to load the bases. Greg Aiken then hit a sacrifice fly to score Maxwell. Sean Morrowâ€™s double scored Bennett to narrow Andrewsâ€™ lead to 4-2.
An RBI double by Kaleb Hoover scored May, though Morrow was thrown out at the plate. But a single by J.P. Poe scored both cour-tesy runner Nick Nemir and Hoover, completing the rally and making it 5-4 in Sweetwaterâ€™s favor.
The lead didnâ€™t last. Two singles and an error allowed Andrews to tie it at 5 in the bottom of the sixth. But Sweetwater came right back to take a 6-5 lead in the top of the seventh.
Bennett hit a leadoff sin-gle, and an intentional walk to Aiken and an infield Morrow single loaded the bases before James Clift drew a walk to score Bennett.Yet Sweetwater, trying to force the series to a third game, instead let Andrews rally to tie the game 6-6 and send it to extra innings.
This time, Sweetwater â€” whose four playoff wins over Fabens and Pampa had been by a total of five runs â€” was unable to fight back as Andrews staged the winning rally.
Clift, who pitched the first seven innings, was replaced by Maxwell after issuing a walk to Ryan Peralta in the bottom of the eighth. Pinch-runner Shane Dolgener went to second on a sacrifice, and then scored on Badgettâ€™s line-drive single over third base to give Andrews the win and the series.
Andrews took a 4-o lead by scoring four runs in the fifth, the last three on an inside-the-park homer by Gunnar Rogers. Badgettâ€™s courtesy runner, Garrett Bawcom, scored the first run on an RBI single by Austin Luna.
But Sweetwater, whose only hit to that point off Andrews pitcher Micah Brown was a third-inning double by Bray Amos, finally got untracked and chased Brown in the sixth.
Three players â€” Bennett, Morrow and Amos â€” each had two hits and Sweetwa-ter had nine in all, one less than Andrews. Sweetwater will be losing five seniors: Morrow, Maxwell, Shawn Campbell, Gabriel Melen-dez and Ryan Linebaugh.