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Onalaska ends season as school’s best

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051123 onalaska baseballThe team takes direction from the Wildcat coaching staff. Photo by Clay Lilley

By Clay Lilley

The Onalaska Wildcats finished one of their best baseball seasons in school history Saturday, with the final two games of the bi-district playoffs ending in one-run differences in Caldwell versus Brazos.

Game 1

Onalaska won Game 1 in a best-of-three series 5-0, with some clutch hitting and another strong pitching performance from senior Brady Smith. Smith threw a complete game shutout of seven innings, allowing no runs on one hit with six strikeouts and four walks.

Onalaska got on the board first in the second inning on a Ty Phillips single to left field, scoring Alex Batiste from third base. Senior Zach Taylor hit a double down the first-base line, scoring Smith to make the score 2-0. Then, Lucas Jackson scored Taylor on a fielder’s choice, pushing the Wildcat lead to 3-0.

Brazos threatened to score with the bases loaded and no out in the fourth, but the Wildcats held them off. The ‘Cats scored again in the fifth inning. With the bases loaded, Smith laid down a squeeze bunt scoring Jackson. Then, Jeret Purkerson hit a sacrifice grounder to second base, allowing Grant Thornton to score the final run of the game.
Game 2
Wildcat centerfielder Wyatt Reyes scored from first base on an error by Brazos in the first inning, and in the second inning, Purkerson scored from third on a bases-loaded walk, giving the Wildcats an early 2-0 advantage.

The Brazos offense finally got going in the third inning, scoring four runs on an error, balk, and a triple, taking a 4-2 lead in the game.

Onalaska took the lead back in the sixth inning when Taylor got two RBIs on a line-drive single to center field and Purkerson scored from third on an error by the catcher, giving the Wildcats a 5-4 lead.

In the bottom of the seventh with a runner on third, Onalaska made an error, allowing the Cougars to tie the game at 5-5. Then in the eighth inning, Brazos scored the winning run on a sacrifice fly to center for a 6-5 final. 

Onalaska started the junior Thornton on the mound in Game 2.

“Grant did a really great job for us, scattering six hits over seven innings, striking out five and only giving up maybe three earned runs,” Onalaska head coach Cody Pinkert said of Thornton’s performance. “I’ll take that stat line all day. We were proud of his performance.”

Taylor pitched the eighth inning for the Wildcats, giving up a run on two hits and taking the loss for Game 2. 

The Brazos win tied the series and set up a winner-take-all Game 3, what every baseball player dreams of. Unfortunately for Onalaska, the dream didn’t end well.

Game 3   
The Wildcats started lefty Brody Hoover on the mound against the Cougars. Brazos took an early 2-0 lead, putting two runs on the board in the first inning on a double steal and a sacrifice fly. Hoover kept the Wildcats in the game, pitching four innings, allowing two runs on three hits, striking out two, and walking two.

Onalaska got on the board in the fourth on a Jackson RBI-single to center, scoring Conner Ruiz from third. Then in the sixth, Jackson hit an RBI-double to right field, scoring Reyes from second base, tying the game at 2-2.

The Cougars came right back and scored once again in the bottom of the sixth. That run would be too much for the Wildcats to overcome, losing Game 3 with the final score of 3-2.

Freshman Ty Phillips pitched the final two innings for Onalaska and allowed only one run on one hit, while striking out four.

“Brody and Ty both stepped up for us on the biggest stage either of them has ever pitched on, and did the job their team needed,” Pinkert said. “Both of them deserve a lot of credit for the job they did in Game 3 for us.”

The loss ends the season for Onalaska with a 17-10-1 record. Though the season ended vwith two heartbreaking losses, the Wildcats finished with 17 wins, placed second in district, and won its first playoff game – all bests in school history.

The team had three seniors – Smith (pitcher/utility), Taylor (first base/pitcher) and Aiden Roberts (outfielder). Their leadership and experience will be missed, but most of the team returns next year, including juniors Jackson (shortstop), Thornton (second base/pitcher), Hoover (first base/pitcher); sophomores Thad Lilley (catcher/pitcher), Purkerson (third base/pitcher), Ruiz (center field/catcher); and freshmen Reyes (left field), Batiste (right field), and Phillips (pitcher/outfielder). The future looks bright for Pinkert and his Onalaska Wildcats

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Onalaska clinches second place 

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050423 wildcats second

By Clay Lilley

With second place in District 23-3A baseball on the line for both teams, the Onalaska Wildcats (16-8) defeated the Shepherd Pirates (14-12-1) 1-0 Monday afternoon.

Onalaska started lefty Brady Smith and the senior pitched another outstanding game for the Wildcats. He threw five shutout innings while striking out seven and walking three.

Smith has been dominant on the mound in his last six starts, allowincinnings for the Wildcats, earning the save.

Jered Purkerson scored the only run of the game on a double steal in the second inning with two outs.

The win gives Onalaska second place in district and a bi-district matchup against the Brazos Cougars Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. at Magnolia High School. This is the first time Onalaska has been in the playoffs since 2018.

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District champions

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050423 district big sandyThe Big Sandy Wildcats won the District 25-2A championship Monday by defeating West Hardin 3-1. Photo by Brian Besch

By Brian Besch
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Big Sandy baseball captured the District 25-2A title with a 3-1 victory over the West Hardin Oilers Monday night at Kountze High School.
“This was supposed to be a down year for us,” Big Sandy coach Will McInnis said. “I am just super proud of our guys. We fought through some games and had some really close games with some opponents, but we’ve battled through that. With Evadale, we played 12 innings with them and that was a marathon. These guys are very resilient and when they get down, they fight back.”

West Hardin scored their only run in the top of the first with a hit by pitch and single that gave each runner two bases after an error. A squeeze bunt brought in the Oiler run. There was a walk to load the bases, but starting pitcher Tony Carter was able to work out of the jam.
Big Sandy responded in the bottom half of the inning as Jason Valderez singled and a wild pitch moved him up. Nick Ortiz reached on error, and a second error off the bat of Andrew Gulley tied the game at one.

The Wildcats threatened again in the next inning by loading the bases, but could not get a run across. West Hardin put two runners in scoring position with no one out in the top of the third, but also could not put runs on the board. The bottom of the third was the same story, as the ‘Cats left two runners in scoring position.

However, Big Sandy would finally break through in the bottom of the fourth on a walk by Brycen Holifield and infield single by Ortiz. Carter delivered a two-run double that would give his team the lead for good.

The Oilers threatened in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Carter was relieved by Hunter Brown in the top of the fifth after consecutive singles. Brown recorded three outs to get out of that frame. In the top of the sixth, the bases were loaded before the third out was recorded. In the final inning, three Oilers reached base before Brown registered a strikeout to end the game with a district title.

“Tony Carter was big for us tonight,” McInnis said. “He is our senior and he has been big for us all year – so has Hunter Brown. (Brown) getting three outs in a row (in the fifth inning) was huge for us. Those two guys were phenomenal.

“I cannot say enough about these guys. They don’t get rattled. They are very persistent and when they get down, they just chip away. They aren’t just trying for a big swing, we are just trying to get on base and going from there.”

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Onalaska takes district match

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042323 clay lilley

By Clay Lilley

With first place in district on the line, the Onalaska Wildcats took a 3-2 game over New Waverly Tuesday night. 

Onalaska (9-2) started their ace, lefty Brady Smith, and he didn’t disappoint. Smith pitched five outstanding innings of baseball, allowing just two runs on five hits, walking two and striking out four.

Brady has shined on the mound for the Wildcats in his last three starts, pitching 17 innings, striking out 10 and allowing only three runs to score. Onalaska’s closer, Thad Lilley, pitched the last two innings to earn the save.

Brock Thorn was the starting pitcher for the Bulldogs, and he threw five innings, but struggled with control, hitting seven batters, walking one, and giving up five hits. 

Onalaska took the lead in the first inning when Lilley and Lucas Jackson both were hit by a pitch, with each scoring on passed balls. Both teams scored a run in the third inning, making it 3-1 Wildcats. The Bulldogs added another run in the fifth to get within a run to make the score 3-2.

The Bulldogs threatened to tie the game in the top of the seventh, but Onalaska catcher Conner Ruiz threw out a runner trying to steal third base for the second out of the inning. Lilley then struck out the cleanup hitter to end the game. 

With the win, Onalaska is now tied for first place with three games remaining. The same two teams faced each other Friday in New Waverly, and next week, Onalaska will play Shepherd for their last two games of the regular season. There will be playoff implications riding on both games for each team.

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Hornet Tennis

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041323 goodrich tennisThe District 28-1A tennis meet was held at Spurger ISD, where several Goodrich student-athletes won medals. Keylon McGowan and John Mendoza (top, center) teamed to place fourth in boys doubles. The teams girls doubles of Latrina Morgan (below, right in background) and Liseidy Balbuena (below, right) , as well as Arly Balbuena and Julissa Olivares placed third and fourth, respectively. In mixed doubles, Tanyreauna Criswell and John Cummins took fourth. A’mareion Bookman (top, left) was a silver medal winner in boys singles, as was Breya Passmore (top, right) in girls singles. First and second place singles and doubles qualify to the regional tournament. Courtesy photo

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