In the throes of an elimination game in the District 31 10-year-old baseball tournament, it appeared that New Braunfels Red starter Miguel Rodriguez may have finally run out of gas.
The right-hander had previously tossed four brilliant innings to help stake his team to a 6-2 lead, but after issuing back-to-back walks to open the top of the fifth, coach Bobby Snow came to the mound for a quick chat as Rodriguez approached the pitch limit of 75.
“I went out there to talk to him and said, ‘How do you feel?’” Snow said. “He said, ‘Well, my arm is getting a little tired.’ I said, ‘Well, I believe in you — you can do it.’ Sure enough, he battled back and made it happen.”
Rodriguez dug deep and struck out each of the next three batters he faced to end the threat. The starter finished the game with eight punchouts as his team advanced to the championship round by virtue of an 8-2 triumph over New Braunfels Blue.
Teammate Brayden Henderson entered the game for NB Red in the top of the sixth and fanned three of the four batters he faced to put an exclamation point on the win.
“The pitching was amazing,” Snow said afterward. “We asked Miguel to go 76 pitches, which is a big deal for Little League baseball.”
Rodriguez made short work of NB Blue in the top of the first, and his teammates rewarded him with a quick lead. After seeing NB Blue pitcher Sean Cardenas open the game with consecutive strikeouts, Wayen Slanina-Wertz was hit by a pitch and eventually came in to score on a passed ball.
NB Red tacked on three more tallies in the second after Brock Stewart lifted a two-RBI single to right field and then came in to score himself moments later on an errant throw.
Israel Fuentes tried to spark an NB Blue rally in the top of the fourth by leading off with a single that was nearly gloved on a dead sprint by center fielder Wyatt Middleton. Brody Saathoff followed with an RBI single to right field to break up Rodriguez’s shutout bid, and after a strikeout, Cardenas provided an RBI single to left to slice NB Red’s lead to two runs.
However, NB Red answered with some timely hitting down the stretch that provided plenty of insurance.
Henderson led off the bottom half of the fourth with a triple to left field, and Stewart added an RBI fielder’s choice two batters later. Kyle Kessler later posted a double before Mason Snow brought him in with an RBI single to left.
NB Red then plated two more runs in the fifth to build its largest advantage of the evening. Soren Anderson got aboard with a single and crossed home on an error, and fittingly, Rodriguez recorded the game’s final run after drawing a walk and sprinting home on a wild pitch a few moments later.
With the victory, NB Red now earns a rematch against Poth, which won the first meeting on Monday night. NB Red must win tonight at 7 p.m. to force a true title contest Thursday night at the New Braunfels Little League Complex.
“We made a lot of errors the first game,” Bobby Snow said of Monday’s defeat. “We cut down on the errors tonight and we actually hit the ball a little bit. That makes a big difference.”