Round Rock, Texas –
Even in the glory of the moment, Kolbi Brown
couldn't be blamed if he felt a twinge of regret.
Kolbi Brown, Woodlands
File photo by Alyson Boyer Rode
Just about everybody at Dell Diamond got a perfect view of the walk-off home run he hit Friday that sent The Woodlands (Texas)
to Saturday's University Interscholastic League Class 5A state baseball final.
Not Brown. He didn't see it because he was too busy running to first base in his team's 2-1 semifinal win over O'Connor (Helotes)
"I didn't know it went out until I heard our first base coach screaming,'' the senior left fielder and No. 8 batter in the stacked Highlanders lineup said. "I wasn't thinking home run going up there. I was just trying to do my job and get on base.''
O'Connor's Justin Garcia
, a catcher converted to pitcher, had done a masterful job of keeping The Woodlands' lineup off balance. But this time, on a 1-2 pitch, Brown said was determined to stay back.
Garcia and The Woodlands' left-hander Ryan Burnett
mowed through the first five innings in a scoreless pitching duel, setting the stage for late drama.
Ryan Burnett, Woodlands
File photo by Jaime Harms
"My fastball was obviously working and I just stuck to the game plan,'' said Burnett, a TCU commit who improved his record to 14-1. He walked one, struck out five, set down the first 16 he faced and took a no-hitter into the seventh.
"That's a normal performance for Ryan,'' Brown said.
The Woodlands (37-4) broke through first. A sacrifice fly by Chris Andritsos
scored Charlie Warren
with the game's first run in the bottom of the sixth. Warren opened the sixth with a double.
O'Connor (31-7-2) tied it in the top of the seventh on Zachary Galm
's clutch two-out RBI single up the middle.
It was Garcia that broke up the no-hitter with an infield single to deep short and eventually scored the O'Connor run.
The momentum that O'Connor grabbed when it tied the score slipped away quickly. Galm stole second, but was out to end the top of the seventh after over-sliding the bag.
"I'm very proud of my guys,'' said O'Connor coach David Collenback. "They fought all the way.''Fort Bend Dulles (Sugar Land) 3, Martin (Arlington) 0
didn't need a lot of defensive help. Dulles' unbeaten right-hander bound for West Virginia shut down Martin on two hits while striking out 11.
With the win in the first of two Class 5A semifinals on Friday, Dulles(32-7) earned a berth in Saturday's state final setting up an all-Houston area final with The Woodlands.
So dominant was Mills (14-0) that no Martin baserunner managed to get past first base. And only four reached first.
"I felt like my velocity was down a bit today,'' Mills said, "but I was definitely getting ahead and hitting my spots. It was perfect timing for me.''
Neither of Martin's hits left the infield.
"I told my guys all I need is one run,'' Mills said.
The Vikings got that run in the fifth when Eric Johnson grounded an RBI single to right field off Martin junior Turner Larkins
(12-1), who pitched well himself. A leadoff walk came back to haunt Larkins.
Dulles scored two more in the sixth on an RBI triple by Jaylen Hubbard and an run-scoring single by Josh Austin.
Dulles used a little bit of trickery to help Mills' cause, catching a Martin baserunner unaware leading off first with a hidden ball play that resulted in an out in the fourth.
"They caught us,'' said Martin coach Curt Culbertson, who had his Warriors in the state tournament for the second straight season. "That was a turning point right there.
"It was a great experience, just to get here,'' said Culbertson. "We've got to somehow figure a way to finish it.'' Josh Watson
and Matt Waller
accounted for the hits for Martin (36-8-1).
Mills, his mound work done, said he would "probably pull out the pompoms'' for the state title game.
The Woodlands is No. 5 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 rankings
and Fort Bend Dulles is No. 21.