GONZALES — Playoff baseball isn’t a phrase you’d normally here in Gonzales, at least not in recent history. The phrase “no-hitter” is also something you don’t hear often. Yet both were talked about this past week with the sophomore Tanner Blundell pitching five innings and allowing no hits in Gonzales’ 14-1 victory over Austin Eastside Memorial.
“Last year, most of the team, they were freshmen, 14-15 years old,” head coach Lance Alford explained. “They were just kids. Some weren’t even shaving playing against grown men out here. Today, we’ve grown up, our boys are starting to fill out and they’re able to compete with these guys. The hard work is starting to pay off.”
Blundell struck out nine batters and walked five in his no-hitter last Friday. The sophomore faced 10 batters in the first three innings, but then struggled in the fourth and fifth, hitting two batters and allowing two walks in the fourth, then allowing two more walks in the fifth.
Instead of pulling the young pitcher, Alford opted to keep him on the mound to “work through” it.
“When he’s throwing strikes you can see he’s in the groove,” Alford said, “but when he starts to kind of get off his rhythm — and you can see it — the ball starts to go down and you saw that tonight. His curveball was working good when he’s throwing it correctly and it was out here and he’s getting a late break on it. On times it was on the side. But that’s where we’re getting a lot of the hitters out, a good breaking pitch. That’s the first no-hitter we’ve had in a long time, so that’s a pretty good deal for the sophomore.”
At the plate, the Apaches scored early and often, although admittedly more could have been scored had the batters been a bit more patient early on.
“It’s all about staying back,” Alford said. “You can see a few of them are out on their front foot. You can’t fault the kids for wanting to hit the ball. They’re trying to be aggressive, but they don’t need to lose their mechanics on it. If you’re falling forward or leaning forward into the pitch, you’re off balance and it’s hard to hit off of one foot. You got to keep both feet and you got to stay balanced. They started to pick up that after all, but yeah, it took a while, because they were just a little too anxious.”
The team combined for eight hits and six walks, striking out four times in the process. Blundell led the team in hits, going 2-for-3 with a double, three RBIs and a walk. Garrett Rickman was hit twice while going 1-for-1 with a triple. He scored all three times.
Including the 19-1 result against Navarro on Monday, the Apaches move to fourth place at 1-3. In a five-team district such as District 27-4A, a sweep over any opponent usually means a playoff berth. Assuming Austin Eastside loses to Navarro, Wimberley and La Vernia (the Panthers have been outscored 47-0 against those three opponents in the first half of district), the Apaches are essentially one win away from postseason play.
“We’re in the driver’s seat now,” Alford said, “we got to beat [Austin Eastside] one more time but [their head coach] said they got their ace coming back.”
AEM 000 10X X – 1 0 1
GHS 445 1XX X – 14 8 0