STAFFORD (Covering Fort Bend News) – Six more games lie ahead on the District 20-6A baseball schedule for the Dulles Vikings, and even though they endured two tough losses during the first week of April, the Vikes’ hopes of returning to the state UIL playoffs are very much alive. They want to return to the postseason for the first time since losing the state championship game to The Woodlands in 2013.
“One of the big things this year is, we’ve finally been able to give some run support to our pitchers, and that’s had a big effect on them,” said Mike Weatherly, in his fifth season as Dulles head coach. “That lets our pitchers relax a little bit. They know they don’t have to be absolutely perfect, because we’ve been scoring quite a few runs. That’s helped a lot.” Indeed, Dulles (now 9-9 overall and 5-3 in district play) averaged 7.5 runs during a 13-game stretch through the end of March, when they went 9-4.
T.S Eliot wrote, “April is the cruelest month.” The Vikings hope that doesn’t prove true for them in 2019, but the first defeat was to Ridge Point Tuesday and left the pain of regret in its wake.
Dulles provided sophomore lefthander Jaden Goodrich a 4-0 lead after two innings on their home field against the first-place Panthers. Goodrich retired the first nine Panthers he faced. Then, in the fourth inning, Ridge Point (now 17-2-1, 8-0) scored twice because of two Dulles errors.
If Goodrich was rattled, he didn’t show it. He sat the Panthers down one-two-three in the fifth and didn’t give up a hit until Hayde Key’s soft liner to the opposite field landed on the foul line for a single. He walked two in the frame and allowed Austin Bradbury’s sacrifice fly that reduced the advantage to 4-3.
In the seventh, a hit batsman and his own high throw to second on pinch-hitter Preston Steszewski’s sacrifice bunt attempt allowed Matt Thompson to score the tying run. In the eighth, Key’s lead-off single put the go-ahead run on base, and when Jason Brown relieved Goodrich, an error and a wild pitch contributed to a two-run rally, and the Panthers won, 6-4. Goodrich took the loss despite allowing only two hits and striking out seven in as many innings.
Perhaps because of a baseball hangover from Tuesday’s loss, and certainly because of the brilliance of Austin starter Avery Hughes, the Vikes lost their second straight on Friday, 1-0. Hughes surrendered only three hits and fanned seven for the Bulldogs. The Vikings’ other pitching ace, Austin Essex, only allowed one hit, but it was Brennan Williams’ RBI single in the bottom of the sixth. It was the first loss in seven starts for Essex (6-1).
Still, at 5-3, the Vikings are on pace for a playoff berth. With six district games left, they trail 8-0 Ridge Point and 7-1 Travis and currently hold the #3 seed, one game ahead of Elkins and Austin (both 4-4).
In district games, the Vikings have four starters batting .300 or better (Austin Epps, Hunter Mullings, Brown and William Burford). Gabriel Herrera has eight RBIs to lead the team in that category during district games, and in 18 overall games, Dulles has three players who have homered (Epps, Brown and Parker Airhart). Even though they’ve gone their last 13 innings without scoring, the Vikes’ offense is formidable. They meet Travis and Clements in the coming week.
Listen to the podcast of last week’s District 20-6A baseball action, Ridge Point at Dulles (Tuesday) and Elkins at Travis (Friday), at https://www.spreaker.com/show/fort-bend-sports-powered-by-vype. Also, listen to live broadcasts next week: Tuesday, Austin at Ridge Point, and on Friday, Dulles at Clements, at that same link. Coverage starts at 6:45 p.m.