It was a back-and-forth battle Wednesday night between New Braunfels Red and New Braunfels Blue in a win-or-go-home District 31 quarterfinal contest.
The game featured plenty of big hits on both sides, but it was the timely defensive plays that ultimately made the difference. Behind three solid innings from reliever Dylan Walker and a few gems in the outfield by Ty Naizer and Keaton Whittle, NB Red prevailed 19-13 to advance to the semifinals against either Seguin or Floresville.
NB Red also got a huge assist from pitcher Weslee Williams, who notched a strikeout to end the bottom of the fifth and keep his team’s slim 14-13 lead intact. NB Red then plated five runs — the maximum allowed per inning at the 9-year-old level — in the top of the sixth to end the game early.
“These boys battled through it,” head coach Paul Naizer said. “They knew that if they threw strikes and hit the ball, they could do it. They did everything we asked of them and never gave up.”
NB Red sprinted to a 5-0 lead in the top of the first thanks to a wild pitch that plated leadoff man Tavis Peters and RBIs courtesy of Eddie Ryan, Ty Naizer and Walker, who also scored the last run on an error.
NB Blue came right back to knot the score in the bottom of the frame, as Cooper Lepsis scored on a wild pitch and Roman Boyd provided an RBI fielder’s choice before Justin Rusick lifted a two-run single to right field. Chase Kelly then tied the game with an RBI double.
Kelson Walker put NB Red back in front with an RBI fielder’s choice in the top of the second, and his teammates soon loaded the bases against Kelly, but the pitcher limited the damage to just two more runs.
NB Blue seized its first lead of the ballgame in the bottom of the frame on a two-RBI double off the bat of Josh Little, and Boyd added his own RBI double to increase Blue’s advantage to 10-8. It was a rough start on the mound for Dylan Walker, who allowed all five tallies, but he rebounded by holding the opposition to just three runs over the next 2 2/3 innings.
“Dylan did a phenomenal job pitching,” Paul Naizer said. “He came in and carried us big time.”
NB Red’s offense got back on track in the top of the third by scratching across five more runs. Peters, Williams, Whittle and Dylan Walker all delivered RBIs, while Whittle also scampered home on a wild pitch.
Whittle then led off the bottom of the third by robbing Rusick of a base hit. The shortstop ranged into the outfield and made the catch despite contact from the left fielder. Dylan Walker then recorded consecutive punchouts to end the frame.
NB Red’s Romeo DeLuna scored on a wild pitch to give his team a 14-10 lead in the top of the fourth, but NB Blue answered back when both Dean Blaue and Lepsis scored on the same NB Red error. Ty Naizer’s catch in center field halted NB Blue’s rally and kept NB Red in front, 14-12.
It was then NB Blue’s turn to show off its defense in the top of the fifth, as Rusick and Lepsis teamed up to work a scoreless frame from the mound. Lepsis struck out two and Blaue made a nice catch in the outfield as well.
NB Blue nearly came back to once again knot the score in the bottom of the fifth, as John Hernandez ripped an RBI double down the third-base line. However, that hit came with two outs on the board, and Williams was able to enter the game and notch a strikeout to help NB Red escape any further damage.
NB Red then put the finishing touches on the victory by plating five additional runs in the top of the sixth.
Following an RBI single by Peters, Ryan delivered a two-RBI single and Whittle came home on a wild pitch. That set the table for Ty Naizer, who ended the game with an RBI double.
NB Red now advances to face the loser of Wednesday’s Seguin-Floresville game in another elimination contest tonight at 7 p.m. at the New Braunfels Little League Complex.
“Hopefully we have something left for Seguin or Floresville after what we did,” Paul Naizer said. “We’ll give it our best shot and see what happens.”