STEPHENVILLE — Down, 3-1, headed into their last at-bat, the Burnet High School baseball players were set to rally.
And it almost worked.
With the bases loaded and Burnet needing only one run to tie, a chopper toward first base forced Abilene Wylie pitcher Reed Strong in a foot race with the Burnet batter.
The crowd held its breath, waiting for the first-base umpire to give his ruling.
After two seconds, he finally threw one arm in the air and dropped it, signaling the ball was thrown to the pitcher, who barely beat the runner to the bag to end the contest, 3-2.
Wylie took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series.
Game two will be played at Brownwood High School 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Our kids battled and gave us a chance to win at the end,” head coach Todd Doucet said. “We didn’t make errors, we played our game. It just didn’t work tonight.”
Burnet scored its second run of the contest on an RBI by junior Emil Litterer after sophomore Cash Conovan drew a lead-off walk, senior Hunter Ellett reached base on a single, and Greg Parker walked.
The game started well for Burnet.
The boys in green scored first in the second inning. Sophomore Ryan Rundzieher reached base on a dropped third strike, while Travis Hoffmeister reached base on a fielding error. Junior Kyler Payne picked up the RBI on a sacrifice flyball.
Wylie tied the game in the third. After a standup double on two outs, the RBI single was hit in the left-center field gap.
Wylie took the lead in the fourth. With two outs, the third batter was walked and the RBI double was hit to left-center field, 2-1.
Wylie added an insurance run in the seventh, 3-1.
Even when Burnet recorded a timely hit, Wylie’s defense responded to get pitcher Strong out of jams. Wylie turned double plays in the fourth and sixth innings to end rallies.
Burnet stranded 10 runners in the contest.
“We hit some hard balls, but we didn’t get any big hits,” the Burnet skipper said. “We didn’t hit the ball at times.”
Doucet gave Wylie credit, adding he thought the walk-on four pitches allowing Wylie to break the tie after Burnet had the two outs in the fourth made the difference in the game.
“We felt like we had a chance to get out of it,” he said.
Senior pitcher Hoffmeister was credited with the loss. He gave up three earned runs on seven hits, walked three and struck out six.
“Travis pitched good enough to win,” Doucet said. “It’s a game of inches. A few things go our way, we’re pretty upbeat.”