The East Texas Pump Jacks’ season was down to its last strike. Bottom of the ninth inning, two outs, two strikes. Facing a one-run deficit, Lee Orr stood tantalizingly close at third base, a mere ninety feet from extending the game.
When Bryan Peters’ grounder found the glove of Brazos Valley Bomber third baseman Casey Dykes, the season appeared over.
But Dykes’ throw was off the mark. The crowd inched forward in their seats as first baseman Jacob House leapt off the bag to snag the throw. By the time he re-touched first base, Peters had crossed safely. More importantly, Orr had raced across home to tie the game, and the Jacks were given a new lease on life.
And at that precise moment, Pump Jacks Nation jumped, cheered, high-fived, and rejoiced. Whether fans found themselves amongst the crowd at historic Driller Park or alone in their living rooms, they danced because the Pump Jacks most successful season yet wasn’t over.
Two innings later, Peters sent fans into a tizzy once more when he lined a single over the second baseman to score Matt Carvutto and earn the dramatic 7-6, 11-inning victory. Carvutto had blasted a one-out double to center field, then scooted to third base as the first intentional ball to Zac Fisher sailed to the backstop. With runners at the corners, Peters lined the 2-2 pitch to right-center, emptying the Pump Jacks dugout in celebration.
The win knotted the divisional playoff series at one game apiece and set the stage for even more drama: The Pump Jacks hosting the Bombers on Thursday night at historic Driller Park for Game Three of their Divisional Series. The victor will advance to its first-ever TCL Championship Series, while the vanquished will pack up and head home.
As has become customary when these two teams meet, the final outcome was far from apparent throughout the game.
The Bombers put together three hits to score twice off of East Texas starter Abel Gonzales in the first inning, a lead they held into the fourth. Ironically, the two runs in the first stanza matched exactly what the Jacks had done a night before, during Game One in Bryan.
Brazos Valley starter Levi Saenz faced the minimum through three innings, but in the fourth frame the Pump Jacks figured him out. Carvutto, Fisher, Peters and Michael Haynes all singled, with the first two scoring on singles by the latter pair.
The rest of the lineup took its shot on Saenz the very next inning. Brandon Wood stroked a double to left field to begin the fifth, and one out later Orr crushed the first pitch over the left field wall for a 4-2 lead. Fisher added a double in the inning.
The lead increased by one when Chase Graskewicz reached on an error in the sixth inning and later crossed the plate courtesy of a balk.
The Bombers, however, proved again that no lead against them is safe. Gonzales struck out the first batter of the seventh, but he reached when the ball skipped to the backstop. Three singles – two of them on bunts – and a fielder’s choice later, the Bombers had scored two runs to chase Gonzales.
Brazos Valley scored twice more in the frame after Khris Tate and Dusty Ross came on, with Ross inducing a bases-loaded flyout to end the rally at four runs. Still, the visitors now had a 6-5 lead, setting the stage for the rest of the night’s drama.
Ross, who was publicly counted out by Brazos Valley’s head coach in a Wednesday newspaper story in College Station, showed his mettle with 4.1 innings of scoreless action. The 2010 All-TCL reliever and TCL record-holder for saves in a season whiffed four Bombers and allowed three hits on an amazing 63 pitches while propelling the Jacks into extra innings.
Ross benefitted from outstanding defense in the eighth inning. Wood turned in a diving catch in right-center field, followed by Russell LaFleur sliding on his knees to catch a line drive.
At the plate, the top of the order propelled the Pump Jacks. Each of the first five hitters in the lineup posted at least two hits and drove in or scored a run. Orr led the way by going 3-for-6 with two runs and two RBI. Carvutto scored twice on two hits, and Fisher, Peters, Haynes and Jesse Santo also stroked multiple safeties.
As it turns out, the Pump Jacks and Bombers haven’t cornered the market on playoff drama. The Texas Tomcats, the #4 seed in the playoffs who were roundly dismissed after dropping their series opener Tuesday night, 8-0 at home, stole a 6-2 Game Two victory in Victoria. The win pushes the Tomcats and the Generals – who won the TCL regular season title for a second year in a row – to a third and final game as well.
The first playoff victory in Pump Jacks history ensures at least one more home game for the Pump Jacks’ faithful, on Thursday beginning at 7:05 pm. Fans will also enjoy one of their favorite promotions: Thirsty Thursday, presented by 96X. The crowd can beat the heat – and ease the playoff tension – with $1 draft beers and 50-cent soft drinks throughout the evening. That’s right, draft beer for just a buck, and soft drinks for just fifty cents with all of your friends while you cheer the Pump Jacks into the TCL Championship Series!
Tickets for Game Three are available at the Pump Jacks office at 1100 Stone Road, Suite 120, in Kilgore, or online at pumpjacksbaseball.com. Tickets can also be purchased Thursday night at the ticket office at historic Driller Park.
Tomcats Win Game Two 6-2 to Even Series
The Texas Tomcats won their first playoff game in franchise history on Wednesday night in Victoria by a final score of 6-2 over the Victoria Generals. The win evened the opening round best-of-three playoff series at 1-1. The decisive game three will be played on Thursday night in Victoria at 7:05pm at Riverside Stadium. The winner of game three will move on to the TCL Championship Series which is scheduled to begin on Friday.
The Tomcats scored three times in the top of the first inning on Wednesday night after not being able to scratch out a single run in game one, a game that they lost 8-0. Casey Grayson and Nick DeSantiago each had RBIs in the first inning. The Generals cut the lead to 3-1 in the second inning when Conner Mach scored on a passed ball. The Tomcats responded with three more runs in the top of the third inning. DeSantiago drove in a run on a ground out, Wes Mercurio added an RBI double, and Relly Mercurio followed with an RBI single. The Generals tried to rally in the bottom of the eighth inning, but were only able to score one run on an RBI single by Kenny Jackson. Zach Oates picked up the win on the mound for the Tomcats. Oates pitched six innings, allowing only one run on five hits while striking out seven. Blake Payne took the loss for the Generals, despite only giving up one earned run. The Generals defense made three erros in the game, all in big situations. The Generals also left 10 runners on base on the night.