When Gordy Taylor drew a walk, Andy McPhail walked on home and the Chaparrals went running.
The entire team met at home plate to greet McPhail as the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth of a 4-3 win over visiting Lake Travis March 26.
The Chaps (16-7, 4-1 District 15-5A) fought fiercely to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh off Lake Travis (11-13, 4-2) ace Daniel Castano, then in the bottom of the ninth Zach Suarez and Carson Spencer drew walks before Tate Shaw beat out a bunt single to load the bases with no outs.
Taylor patiently waited and earned the bases on balls to force in McPhail, giving the Chaps’ newest district rival a deflating and shocking defeat, though nobody on Westlake was surprised.
“We knew what we were getting into and that once we worked together, anything (Castano) threw we were ready for,” Taylor said. “We have great guys in the lineup. Everyone’s hitting, there’s always a live bat coming up, and we’re always a threat.”
The rally in the Chaps’ last regulation at-bat had been building for a few innings. Westlake was putting runners on in the fifth and sixth, but both innings they ran into outs on the bases and limited the scoring to just one run.
Trailing 3-1, the Chaps nearly ran themselves into a loss.
Alex Cabezas led off with a single and stole second, followed by a Suarez walk and Spencer reaching on a shortstop error to load the bases. With Shaw up and nobody out, Cabezas got carried away trying to district Castano down the third base line and was promptly picked off by the lefty, making it one out and two on instead of no outs and the bases full. Shaw hit a grounder and the Cavs got Spencer out at second but Shaw beat the throw to first to put runners on first and third with two outs.
Calmly, Taylor roped a single to score McPhail (running for Suarez) to make it 3-2 and keep Westlake’s hopes alive.
Aaron Black followed with a grounder on the infield but he was able to leg it out and beat the throw to first, allowing Shaw to score with the tying run to make it 3-3, and the game went to extra innings after Castano got the third out.
“These guys right here really will not quit, they go up to the plate every time and battle,” Westlake baseball coach Jeff Montgomery said. “They battle up here on the mound, too.”
The out at third didn’t derail the Chaps confidence.
“We got over it, that’s just the kind of team we are,” Taylor said. “We have so many great players, we can bounce back from anything.”
Duncan Brown, who replaced Westlake starter Paul Kirkpatrick – who was effective with 11 strikeouts – in the sixth, put down the Cavs 1-2-3 in the eighth and worked around a one-out walk in the ninth, allowing for the Chaps comeback to become complete when McPhail crossed home in the bottom of the ninth.
Westlake also came back to beat Cedar Park March 22.
“The funny thing is we’ve been there before,” Taylor said. “I don’t want to say it was a familiar situation because I don’t want it to be, but it was great team effort.”
Castano kept the Chaps from doing much of anything the first four innings as Lake Travis grabbed a 2-0 lead. Lake Travis got two runs in the fourth with two singles, a wild pitch, an error and two walks.
In the fifth, Cory Takenaka led off with a single and stole second before Suarez roped an RBI single to make it a 2-1 game. However, Suarez was thrown out at second trying to advance on the throw home. Then, Spencer ripped a double to the wall in left-center, and Shaw laced a single to right but Cavs’ right fielder Troy Carter threw a strike to home plate to nail the runner and stunt the Chaps from tying the game.
After two straight singles in the sixth, Duncan came on in relief of Kirkpatrick, and Lake Travis got a run back as another error allowed a run to cross the plate to make it 3-1.
“We had a couple of boneheaded plays, but that’s these kids just trying to be aggressive, that’s what they’re going to do,” Montgomery said. “They’re not going to be passive, they’re going to push the bases and go to the plate swinging. There was some frustrating moments from time to time, and we’re still trying to get rid of those errors, that would have alleviated some stress.”
In the bottom half of the inning, Westlake again ran itself out of a potentially big inning.
Taylor drew a leadoff walk and Black went opposite field to right with a single following him.
Cleanup hitter Wes Nicol was asked to sacrifice them over, but his bunt went to hard toward third and Lake Travis got the force out at third. Castano struck out the next hitter and induced a grounder to escape the damage.
Kirkpatrick worked tirelessly to keep the Cavaliers from tallying more runs than they had, going to 101 pitches on the day. The tall righty was crafty when the stakes were highest, leaving the bases loaded in the fourth and fifth innings, while Brown got a groundout with the bases loaded to end the sixth inning, leaving Lake Travis to lament what could have been.
“(Kirkpatrick) threw every 101 of them deliberately,” said Montgomery in praise of his starter. “And Duncan spends a lot of time in the bullpen working out. He knows he has a job to do and he comes out and is very dedicated.”
Westlake sits atop the standings after five district games, with four-straight district wins.
“It was a great win, emotion-filled,” Montgomery said. “Those are the fun wins.”