By Larry Lamb
ROUND ROCK — A first-inning run was all the Nazareth Swifts needed to shatter the Kennard Tigers' state championship dreams.
Nazareth scored early and fended off the defending state runner-up Kennard squad to win the Class 1A state semifinal match-up 1-0 Wednesday morning at Dell Diamond.
Nazareth (21-1) advanced to the 1A championship game Thursday but was no match for the D'Hanis Cowboys.
D'Hanis reached the title game with a 16-0 five-inning shellacking of Abott and slammed the door on Nazareth 4-0 to claim the state crown.
The D'Hanis softball team won the 1A state crown a week earlier, marking the second dual championship in school history. D'Hanis also won twin titles in 2019.
Kennard senior Dylan Cole turned in a solid performance on the mound against Nazareth and was named pitcher on the Class 1A State Championship All-Tournament Team as selected by the Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association.
Cole, who pitched a perfect game against Union Hill in the regional series, Cole, allowed one run on seven hits with five strikeouts and no walks against Nazareth.
Nazareth scored on a bases-loaded single and rode dominant pitching by Trent Gerber (13-0) to victory.
Gerber, the only senior on the Swifts' roster, gave up three hits while striking out 10 and issuing no walks.
In the bottom of the first, Cole struck out the first batter but the Swifts loaded the bases on three straight singles. After Carson Heiman scored on Brett Young's single, Cole came back with a strikeout and the next batter grounded out, leaving three runners on base to hold Nazareth to a 1-0 lead.
After collecting those four hits in the first, Nazareth only got three off Cole over the next six innings and failed to get a runner past second.
Keyton Lumbreraz started the second with a single through the left side. After Gerber struck out the next batter, Caleb Alfred grounded into a double play to thwart the Tigers.
Kennard (24-15) threatened in the fourth with two runners on base after Elijah Dowdy reached on a throwing error and Cole hit a one-out singled to left center field. Gerber struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
The Tigers had base runners in the sixth and seventh innings, but both were stranded. Elijah Dowdy reached on an error in the sixth and Pilkington singled to right field in the top of the seventh to put the tying run on base. But Gerber struck out the next two Tigers to ice the win and advance Nazareth to the championship game.
The Swifts left six base runners aboard and the Tigers stranded four.
Nazareth committed two errors while Kennard had zero miscues in the field.
Cole, Keyton Lumbreraz and Ryan Pilkington collected Kennard's only hits.
This was the second straight appearance at state for the Tigers, who finished as state runner-up in 2021.
The game closed the high school careers for Cole, Nick Farmer, Ryan Pilkington, Caleb Alfred and Ethan Miller.
Kennard will return 11 players, including juniors, Jaden Kulms, Elijah Dowdy, Keyton Lumbreraz, Tristan Burgess and Adrian Montero. Sophomores returning will be Jacob Teasdale and Sevrin Sharp, along with freshmen Jakorviae Benton, Preston Keiffer and Nikolas Dowdy.