The Mineola Yellowjackets dropped their bi-district playoff game to the Palmer Bulldogs, 9-0, at Royse City High School on May 3.
“Palmer was just the better baseball team on the night,” stated Mineola head coach Russell Bowker. Mineola gave up a four-run first inning, struggled at the plate and committed three fielding errors.
Under overcast skies that lifted during the game, the Yellowjackets faced the District 11-3A champion Palmer team. Lefthander Cole Castleberry started for Mineola and right-handed fastball pitcher Clayton Solomon threw for the Bulldogs. Each pitcher completed the game.
Palmer sent eight batters to the plate in the opening frame. A leadoff walk and a hit-by-pitch put two Bulldogs on base. Palmer senior Wesley Greenlee slapped a single up the middle to score the two base runners and give Palmer the first two runs of the night.
Castleberry, who battled with a narrow strike zone all night, issued a two-out walk to put a second man on base. A dropped fly ball allowed the runners to score and put Palmer up 4-0. A nice running catch by centerfielder Connor Dobbs closed the inning.
Mineola put two men on in the bottom of the first. River Simonek cracked a ball up the middle for a single and Dobbs reached after being plunked on the head by a pitch. An unassisted put-out at third on a Jacob Dabbs ground ball ended the inning.
Palmer added two runs in the second. Yellowjacket shortstop Dalton Rogers made a nice play to field a ground ball deep in the left-side gap but had no throw. Mineola had the runner caught off first in pick-off attempt, but a low throw skipped to the fence and the runner advanced to third. The next batter hit a soft ground ball to first and the runner from third scored.
The Yellowjackets regrouped and got the second out on a nice play by Dalton on a ground ball to short. A two-out walk put the next Bulldog on base. He stole second base without a throw, and scored on a Greenlee line drive to center.
The Yellowjackets went down in order in the second. Palmer produced two beautiful defensive plays. Bulldog centerfielder Greenlee made an excellent running catch to rob Caleb Gant of extra bases. With two outs, Jack Heard hit a hard one-hopper that careened off of the right side of the mound. Palmer shortstop Ben Waddle adjusted on the run, fielded the ball on the right side of the infield and nipped Heard at first.
Each hurler threw solid third and fourth innings. Castleberry set the Bulldogs down in order while Solomon faced just seven hitters. The score stood 6-0 going into the fifth.
The top of the fifth characterized the night for Mineola. After Mineola retired the first two hitters, a fielding error at first put a Palmer man on base. The runner stole second and scored on a double by Solomon down the right field line. A line drive single by Adrian Cisneros to center recorded the second RBI of the inning.
The Yellowjackets managed three baserunners in the bottom of the fifth. Heard reached on an infield single when two Bulldogs fielders collided on the play. He was forced at second on a fielder’s choice off the bat of pinch-hitter Remington Coleman. After Rogers earned a base on balls, Simonek drove the first pitch to deep center. Mineola hopes soared as Simonek hit the ball a ton, but it held up and became just a long out to end the inning. There were yet two innings to play, but one could sense the outcome after the Mineola rally never materialized in the fifth.
The starters dispatched each side in order in the sixth. Palmer added one run in the seventh with a walk – single – sacrifice fly sequence.
The Jackets hustled to the very end, as they have all year. With two outs, Heard reached on an error at first. He was stranded and the 2019 Yellowjacket campaign came to a close.
Bowker was candid and emotional after speaking to his team. “I am so proud of this group,” he stated. “They have struggled and overcome all year long.”
After acknowledging that Palmer out-played the Yellowjackets, Bowker reflected on the value of baseball: “We try to teach that baseball is preparation for life. We challenge each of our players to develop the teamwork and discipline that they will need throughout their lives … to wake up each morning and be a better man.”