Jackets squeeze out bidistrict victory in three games

Posted 5/13/21

It was entirely fitting that the final out in Mineola’s 9-7 bi-district title game was taken by Jack Heard. To understand just how fitting, it is necessary to go back to a disastrous first inning for the Yellowjackets. 

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Jackets squeeze out bidistrict victory in three games


It was entirely fitting that the final out in Mineola’s 9-7 bi-district title game was taken by Jack Heard. To understand just how fitting, it is necessary to go back to a disastrous first inning for the Yellowjackets. 

The Yellowjackets had taken a lead by pushing one run across to start the third game of the series against New Boston.

Riley Fowler reached on a fielding error. A clean base hit by Cason Davis, an infield hit by Caleb Gant and a Spencer Joyner Texas-leaguer, produced the run. Mineola then left the bases loaded.

Throwing directly into gale force winds howling through the diamond at Paris Chisum High School, Mineola starter Heard walked the first New Boston hitter. Then he simply got shelled. New Boston crushed the ball for seven base hits in the first inning and chalked up five runs. Two of those hits were back-to-back doubles. 

When things are going badly in baseball, they tend to escalate, and that is what happened to Heard. Two hits were sharp ground balls which bounced literally out of the infield. Only a nice throw from Yellowjacket catcher Coy Anderson, catching a baserunner trying to steal second base, thwarted the home team’s attack.

After one inning, the Jackets trailed 5-1 but had New Boston just where they wanted them. 

To his great credit, Heard put that initial inning behind him and threw excellent baseball for the remainder of the afternoon. In the ensuing 5 and 2/3 inning, Heard gave up only three hits while striking out nine and issuing only two free passes.    

The change in the game was dramatic. It was as if Heard had figured out between innings just how to pitch into that driving wind. The New Boston hitters quickly lost their first-inning confidence.

In the meantime, the Mineola line-up played Mineola baseball. They added two runs in the second. Thomas Hooton scored on a Fowler sacrifice fly-ball, and Heard scored on a Gant ground ball through the left side of the infield.

New Boston stole a run in the second with an amazingly well-timed delayed steal of home. 

Mineola was undeterred. Conner Gibson laced a single to open the third. Brady Shrum stepped in. Demonstrating great upper body strength, Shrum drove a high pitch on a line over the centerfield wall for a two-run round-tripper. The Yellowjackets added a third run in the inning when Fowler hammered a single, scoring Hooton. 

It was 6-6 after three innings, but the momentum had definitely shifted from New Boston to Mineola.  New Boston took a brief 7-6 lead in the bottom of the fifth, aided by a rare Mineola throwing error.

Mineola’s three-run sixth inning was typical Yellowjacket baseball. Three singles (Davis, Joyner and Shrum) loaded the bases. 

With two outs, Hooton drew a walk and forced in the tying run. Now facing a New Boston relief pitcher, Heard sent a come-backer into centerfield for two RBI and the bi-district championship. It was a textbook example of hitting under pressure. 

In the seventh, Heard faced three hitters. He recorded a ground ball out and a strike out but gave up an infield hit. He gave way on the mound to Joyner.

The final New Boston batter lifted a deep fly ball to left field, just where Heard had rotated after yielding to Joyner. Heard made a tough catch on the ball in the gusting winds, and Mineola had a bidistrict title.

For Heard the win will certainly have a special place. Heard threw 111 pitches. He also went 2-for-4 at the plate – two singles and two successful sacrifice bunts – and had the game-winning RBI. He scored one run and fielded the final out of the game. 

Of course, he wasn’t  the only stand-out of the game. In addition to his two-run homer, Shrum made a fantastic catch in right field on a hard liner. He snagged the ball as it trailed away from him for the second out in the sixth, certainly preventing an extra-base hit.

Mineola will face the New Diana Eagles this week in the area competition. The Eagles, winners of District 15, swept Troup in a three-game series.

The area playoff will be held at Driller Park in Kilgore with game one Thursday at 7 p.m., game two Friday at 7 and game three if needed Saturday at 1 p.m.

Mineola’s third game with New Boston was necessitated by a split of the first two games Friday.

Mineola overcame a 6-run New Boston first to post an 11-9 victory behind Cason Davis’ complete game. Five run innings in the third and fifth pushed Mineola to the lead after New Boston added two in the third and one in the fourth. Hooton had three of the 12 Mineola hits with Gant and Davis each recording two.

New Boston opened the second game of the double header with another big first inning, plating five on their way to a 15-4 win. Mineola rallied in the second for all four runs, but New Boston scored in six of its seven at bats.