Reagan County’s Alex Chavez had one thing on his mind standing at third base in the bottom of the seventh inning in Game 2 against Tulia.
The senior had already helped his team’s cause in the fifth inning with an inside-the-park two-run-homerun to tie the game.
The homer worked the Owls back into a game where they were down by two runs following a Tulia five-run outburst in the third.
“We had bases loaded there in the bottom of the seventh with one out,” Coach Edward Soto said. “I told Alex to be aggressive on his decision to go home.”
The Owls had worked Tulia’s starting pitcher, Shawn Kelly, off of the mound by that point in the game.
Matt Gomez was in to close things out for Hornets.
“We had him pretty well shook by the time the bases were loaded,” Soto said. “They had two pitchers who could really throw hard. The final guy was more of their junk ball pitcher. He was brought in to keep us off balance.”
Soto told Alex Chavez to be expecting a ball in the dirt at some point in Nathan DeLeon’s at-bat.
Soto made it clear to his veteran, if the ball finds dirt, don’t hesitate.
“They had their infield in,” Soto said. “I was going to trust Alex to make the right move and win the game for us.”
Chavez bounced back and forth, extending his lead more and more in Gomez’ vision as the count worked to 1-1.
“The ball found dirt,” Soto said. “But it wasn’t what we’d discussed. It was on a big hit by Nathan.”
Nathan’s single jolted the dirt at the front of the pitcher’s mound before glancing off Gomez’ leg.
Alex, crossing home plate with his hand raised to the sky, was the walk off run the Owls needed to secure the 6-5 Area clenching win.
“He truly had an amazing series for us,” Soto said. “He hit two home runs in the series and was our starter in Game 1. A role he didn’t see much of during the season.”
The Owls were having to change their lineup to fill holes left by three starters who missed the series.
“I used Alex more as a mid to late game reliever most of the year,” Soto said. “He was always strong when we brought him out, so I had faith in his arm.”
Chavez went six and a third innings for the Owls while allowing two hits, three earned runs and racking up 14 strike outs.
He also hit his first home run on the very first pitch he saw during the series.
“He had a great series for us,” Soto said. “But he wasn’t the only one. We had to move several players around to make this series work for us.”
Marco Flores, who had some varsity experience earlier in the year, was brought in to play center field for the Owls.
Jacob Gallegos, who normally plays in the outfield, was shifted to first base for the series.
Isaah Perez, who saw spotty action as a pinch hitter and runner during the season, filled the DH spot.
And senior JR Esquivel, who saw innings during the year in the outfield, took to the outfield grass for the entire series.
“Those guys all did a great job stepping up for us,” Soto said. “We asked them to do some things they aren’t used too, and they all stepped up to fill in.”
Soto also sang the praises of Junior Justin Chavez.
“He is a quite guy,” Soto said. “He goes out, does his job and flat out produces.”
Soto said Justin, who also notched a home run during Game 1, has one of the highest batting averages for the Owls during their playoff run.
“He isn’t a flashy guy,” Soto said. “I like that about him. He is very consistent at the plate.”
The Owls were in a position to win the series in Game 2 with their 5-3 win over Tulia on Friday.
Jacob Gallegos had a good game during the opener with two hits in three at bats.
Justin Chavez scored notched two runs during the game while driving across two.
Trey Ortiz also had an RBI to his name.
Ortiz took the mound for the Owls as their Game 2 starter.
He allowed five runs on five hits while notching five strikeouts.
Pablo Hernandez, who took the save in Game 1, was the winning pitcher for Game 2 with one inning of service, two ground outs and a strikeout in the deciding game.
The Owls now turn their attention to Shallowater, the #4 team in the State according to the High School Baseball Coaches Poll.
“They are a solid program,” Soto said. “They have been to the state tournament recently.”
Soto said he knows they are a solid team on both offense and defense, but he feels they are vulnerable.
“Ballinger really gave them a run for their money in their Area series,” Soto said. “They took them to three games. I think that has our guys excited.”
Shallowater won Game 1 of their Area series against the Bearcats 14 to 0.
Ballinger bounced back in Game 2 winning 8 to 2.
Game 3 was a low scoring affair with Shallowater pulling out the series on a 3 to 2 victory.
“We had a slip up with a lot of errors in our first meeting with Ballinger this year,” Soto said. “That was a self inflicted loss. We played our game the next time we faced them and beat them handily.”
Soto said Shallowater has one pitcher who can handle himself on the mound.
“Their ace is pretty good,” Soto said. “He throws hard, but I understand he may have some control issues.”
Soto said there is some drop off in pitching after he goes out.
“The rest of their guys are good, but not dominant,” Soto said.
The Owls will travel to Lubbock Christian University for Game 1 of the series today starting at 5 p.m.
“Their coach really wanted to play on Saturday,” Soto said. “But we have prom here, and I didn’t want there to be any distractions.”
Soto said that forced the coaches to agree on a home-and-home set up.
“He was able to get a field very close to Shallowater in Lubbock,” Soto said. “We had to take Stanton due to other fields being booked on Friday. Since their field was much closer to home for them, we were able to get both Game 2 and 3 in Stanton.”
Soto said, no matter how far his team has to travel, they will be ready to play.
“It may sound crazy, because of all our success this year, but this isn’t the most talented team I’ve had,” Soto said. “But they are so good together. They are extremely resilient. They keep their composure when other teams we’ve had in the past wouldn’t. They just stay the course, and I think that is what makes them special.”