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China Spring outlasts Sinton in 12 innings to reach UIL 4A baseball title game

Cougars finally break record tie with four-run inning to defeat defending 4A champs

By Buck Ringgold | Photos by Andrew McCulloch

AUSTIN, Texas — In the longest Class 4A UIL state baseball tournament game in history, China Spring finally ended a champion's reign.

The Cougars broke a four-all score with four runs in the top of the 12th inning as they held off defending 4A state champion Sinton, 8-4, in the 4A semifinals Wednesday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Thanks to China Spring, the road ends short of a repeat title for national No. 3 Pirates, one of the country's best high school baseball teams this spring.

"I'd like to say the toughest team won the game, but they were equally tough," China Spring coach Cory Beckham said. "We came out on top, but they had every opportunity to take the lead. ... We were down and out, and on the last out and they had a chance, but we found a way.

"We had so many guys that came through."

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China Spring (36-5-1) will play for the 4A championship at 6:30 p.m. Thursday - also at UFCU Disch-Falk Field - against Texarkana Liberty-Eylau, which beat Canyon Randall in Wednesday’s other semifinal.

After a combined total of 30 baserunners were left stranded in 11 innings, China Spring took advantage of runners on base.

With runners on second and third with one out, Braxton Bowers laid down a successful squeeze bunt to break the deadlock. Dillon Bowers then had a squeeze bunt of his own, bringing home another runner to make it 6-4.

"I was beating myself up for not bunting earlier in the game, but then when I had that chance, I was like, I'm not going to second-guess myself again; we're going to drop down some bunts right here and try to win the game," Beckham said. "The players did it, they executed their bunts, they got on base to get it done."

China Spring got more insurance when Mason Kirk drilled a two-run double into the left-field corner. Kirk ended up going 4-for-7 on the night, and was the only Cougar with a multi-hit game.

Brenan Daniel was the winning pitcher in relief, going 6 1/3 innings. He allowed one run, which was earned, on three hits and struck out six. JC Hughes pitched a scoreless bottom of the 12th.

The Pirates (37-4) rallied from a 2-0 deficit with a two-out two-run triple from Nick Flores in the bottom of the third. China Spring regained the lead, 3-2, in the top of the fifth, but in the bottom of the fifth, Kash Wood evened the score once more with a two-out RBI double.

China Spring went in front once more, 4-3, in the top of the sixth on a two-out RBI single from Braxton Bowers.

But in the bottom of the seventh, Wood drew a leadoff walk. With one out, Aidan Moody hit a double to deep left, bringing in Wood to force another tie ballgame, 4-all.

Sinton had chances to win the game in both the eighth and ninth innings. The Pirates, though, stranded a runner on third to end the eighth; then loaded the bases with one out in the ninth before China Spring escaped by getting a double play.

For the game, Sinton stranded a total of 20 runners.

China Spring got a pair of runners on with two out in the top of the 10th. However, Moody escaped the jam with a strikeout. The Cougars drew a leadoff walk in the top of the 11th, but it was erased on a double play.

The Cougars finished with nine hits on the night. In addition to Kirk's four-hit outing, Jacob Klement hit a triple, drove in two runs and scored two more.

The previous record for the longest UIL 4A state tournament game was in 2003, when Sinton posted a 4-3 win against Canyon in 10 innings, also a 4A semifinal.

"If you wanted to come see a good high school baseball game, and you were here (Wednesday), you got your money's worth," Beckham said. "That was a heck of a game, and like I said, both teams battled."

For the Pirates, Wood and Moody each had two hits and drove in a run.

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