ASHER – The Asher baseball team is moving onto regionals. The Indians gave up a game to Maud Wednesday that forced them to look for back-to-back wins Thursday against the Tigers to win their district tournament and advance to regionals. The Indians stole the early game Thursday with a 5-3 extra-inning win and capped off with a 9-6 victory to take the series 2-1.
With his ace Trevor Martin available for the first game of the day, Asher coach Shane Coker never had doubts about the first victory, but with a short bullpen he knew the second would be more questionable.
“I didn't know if we could come out and beat them twice today. I felt very, very confident that we could beat them once with Martin and everything else was icing on the cake,” he said.
Tied at two in the top of the eighth, J.R. Milburn hit a triple to the left field wall to bring in Preston Patten and Jake Dobbs. Milburn was brought in on a groundout by Braden Sanders to go ahead 5-2. Lane Brooks reached base on an error to leadoff the bottom half of the inning for Maud, moved to second on another error and scored on a missed catch in right field.
The Tigers nearly had the game won in the bottom of the seventh to forego the late game and emerge district champs, but Devon Reid got caught in a pickle between home and third for the final out of the inning.
Brady Arms scored on a sacrifice from Braden Fletcher to right but Reid rounded too wide and found himself in a sticky situation where he was eventually tagged out near home plate. The blunder wasn't entirely Reid's fault, Maud coach Brad Bodkin said.
“We were a pickle away from winning and being done. There was a little miscommunication, I was telling him to make a turn and he made too wide of a turn... otherwise we would have had an opportunity to knock him in,” he said.
Flether and Martin each drove in a run in the first to end the inning tied at 1.
Martin threw all eight innings without giving up a walk and struck out 15 batters. Fletcher tossed the complete game for the Tigers and mustered seven hits, six strikeouts and five walks. Asher committed nine errors as a team.
Neither thrower would have returned for a ninth inning and Martin was already walking on a tightrope.
“Martin toed the rubber at 117, so he was done, that was it,” Coker said.
The Tigers rallied with four runs in the third and two in the fourth of the final game to take a 6-1 lead, but a 7-run rally by Asher in the fifth swayed things the Indians' way.
Jayse Beverage and Brock Williamson had already made their ways home before Martin crushed a three-run homer over the left field wall to tie the game up at 6-6. Beverage would return to the plate for his second single of the inning to drive in Milburn and Braydon Sanders and take an 8-6 advantage.
The Indians tried to set up early opportunities to get a big hit, but as soon as they got one Martin took advantage.
“We had about two or three innings where we set it up for one big swing to do it and we could just never get the big swing. He did come through that inning,” Coker said. “We preach all the time that as long as you're within three or four runs, you're within striking distance. That paid off today and was never more proven than today.”
Martin hit a sacrifice to center in the sixth to drive in Dobbs for some insurance.
Kash Bodkin singled to short in the bottom of the third to bring home Reid and take the lead at 2-1 before Fletcher singled to left to drive in two more runs. Connor Pellman got the Tigers on the board with a passed ball earlier in the inning.
Bodkin drove in his second run of the game on a double in the fourth and Reid singled to drive in Pellmon for a 6-1 advantage. Coach Bodkin's team had a good edge, but baseball can be a fickle sport.
“We battled and got runs and I thought that we were going to get there, then their bats come to life,” coach Bodkin said. “I'm not going to say there isn't anything that we didn't do right, but they made plays.”
Patten threw the game for the Indians, fanning eight, walking four and giving up nine hits and five earned runs. Cole Brewer went five innings for Maud and walked four, struck out three and gave up eight hits. Brooks closed and gave up three hits and one run.
Patten hadn't pitched a lot previously for Asher, but wanted at least one more chance on the mound before pursuing a career in the military after graduating. Coker was ecstatic from his performance and knew Patten would give everything he had.
“About as gutty as we've had for a guy who hasn't toed the rubber, hasn't thrown a bullpen, hasn't seen a live hitter since the first week of March,” Coker said.
The Indians (14-10) move on to regionals with the wins. Pairings and location will be announced Monday.
The Tigers finish their season with a record of 17-14 and graduate five seniors if Ryan Bowers, Caleb Troxell, Bodkin and Reid.
Coach Bodkin said he is going to miss his seniors and that he was proud of them and will be hard to replace, but with a good lower class he's planning on the team being competitors still in the future.
“I'm hoping Maud is going to be a tough out in baseball for several years to come,” he said.