Article:    
HS BASEBALL: Hurlers push MHS to series win over Aztecs
5/9/2017 12:41 PM

VAN HORN -- Trailing 1-0 in its best-of-three Class 6A bi-district series against El Paso El Dorado, the Midland High baseball team had its back against the wall.

But the Bulldogs dug deep and used a pair of stellar complete games from seniors Jaxon Hallmark and Ryan “Frank” Culp, as well as a disciplined approach at the plate to rally back. They won Game 2, 3-2 before taking Game 3, 5-0 to win the series 2-1 on Saturday at Van Horn High School.

Though he took the hard-luck loss, MHS also got a complete game from senior right-hander Brooks Betcher on Friday.

In addition to the trio of complete games, the Bulldogs racked up 22 at-bats that spanned five pitches or more in Saturday’s doubleheader sweep.

“Our pitchers battled their tails off,” Russell said. “I feel for Betcher because he deserved better (in Friday’s 5-4 loss).  In the last game, Ryan kept us in the game, he kept throwing strikes. That dude, he doesn’t throw super hard, but he spots his pitches well and he’s tough to hit.”

With the series win, MHS (19-14) advanced to the area round for the 19th team in the team’s 20 playoff seasons under head coach Barry Russell. The Bulldogs will play Keller Fossil Ridge at a date, time and location to be determined.

In Game 2, MHS came out with a fresh sense of vigor, as starter Hallmark settled into a dominant rhythm almost immediately. Following a leadoff single by the Aztecs’ Ryan Portillo, Hallmark retired 17 of the next 18 El Dorado (19-13-1) batters. 

In the meantime, the Nebraska signee bolstered his team’s cause with an RBI single to left in the bottom of the first for a 1-0 Bulldogs lead. Then in the sixth, Tyler Wade poked a two-RBI single in between first and second for a 3-0 MHS advantage.

Hallmark said the Bulldogs needed to play with greater focus and energy if they wanted to remain alive in the series.

“After we lost Game 1, we didn’t think we played very well,” Hallmark said. “(Friday night after the loss) we had a team meeting and said we needed to do better when we came out (Saturday).”

Hallmark had a three-hitter going through six quality innings, but the Aztecs provided a real scare in the seventh.

After back-to-back one-out singles, Bryan Mena - the hero in the El Dorado’s Game 1 victory - reached on a throwing error to second by Hallmark on an attempted 1-4-3 double play that would have ended the game.

Portillo then singled to get the Aztecs on the board and Isaiah Madrid followed with a single that plated the second run. But the tying run rounded third and was thrown out at home in a rundown, sealing the nail biting Game 2 win for the Bulldogs.

Hallmark notched the complete game win, as he allowed the two unearned runs on five hits while striking out seven and walking one.

Then, riding the momentum of the series-tying win, MHS struck immediately in Game 3 with a solo blast to left center by Hallmark. Sam Bertelson later scored on a wild pitch to make it 2-0 Bulldogs.

From there, Culp, who was making his first start in nearly two months, cruised. He allowed just six base runners in the game was also braced by Logan Hatfield’s RBI infield single in the third, as well as an RBI single by Sam Matchus and an RBI walk by Chris Sims in the third.

“I felt really good,” Culp said of his outing. “My two-seam had a lot of movement, I kept the ball down in the zone and after that (Game 2) win, I think we finally said ‘All right I think we can do this,’” Culp said. “(In Game 3), the hits came together and I had a good defense behind my back and threw strikes.”

Culp yielded three hits, while fanning one and walking one over his seven innings.

The Bulldogs chased El Dorado starter Aaron Duran in the third inning, as they refused to chase pitches outside of the strike zone throughout the final game.

“We were way more selective and we talked about that a bunch,” Russell said. “(The MHS players) get tired of me saying that.”

Wade, MHS’ lone starting sophomore, led the Bulldogs offensively by going 7-for-11 with four RBI, a double, a run and two walks in the three games.  At the plate, Betcher completed the series going 5-for-9 with three runs and a walk.

“I felt great,” Wade said of his first varsity playoff series. “I was glad I had my team to back me up and I was proud that I could be there for my team when I needed to be.

Follow Will on Twitter: @Will_MRT

Game 1

MIDLAND HIGH 3, EL PASO EL DORADO 2

El Dorado             000         000         2              --2          5              1

MHS      100         002         x              --3          5              2

Sergio Rodriguez, Corey Birch (6) and Alex Flores. Jaxon Hallmark and Sam Matchus. W - Hallmark. L - Rodriguez.

Game 2

MIDLAND HIGH 5, EL PASO EL DORADO 0

El Dorado             000         000         0              --0          3              0

MHS      212         000         x              --5          7              2

Aaron Duran, Corey Birch (3) and Alex Flores. Ryan Culp and Sam Matchus. W - Culp. L - Duran. 2B - El Dorado: Anthony Salcido. HR - MHS: Jaxon Hallmark.

Records: El Paso El Dorado 19-14-1; MHS 19-14

Next: El Paso El Dorado has completed its season; MHS vs. winner of Keller Fossil Ridge-Fort Worth Paschal, TBA in Class 6A area round

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