AUSTIN, Texas — Even in defeat Liberty-Eylau shared a 4A state record with 2023 champion China Spring.
The Cougars (37-5-1) took home the gold medals Thursday at Disch-Falk Field with a 3-2 walk-off victory over L-E in their second straight 12-inning game. China Spring eliminated defending champion Sinton in 12 innings Wednesday night to set the record for longest state tournament game in Class 4A.
If there was anyone among the 1,233 in attendance that thought the Leopards didn’t belong in Austin, there’s folks in Celina, Canyon Randall and China Spring that would disagree today.
The Leopards were outhit 11-5, but struggled when they had scoring opportunities. They had numerous chances touch home plate thanks to 11 walks issued by three of the Cougars’ four pitchers. China Spring earned the title with 12 innings of errorless ball. Freshman Miles Vaughn retired the four batters he faced for the pitching win.
Sophomore Dylan Nabors struck out the Cougars’ Brenan Daniel to start the bottom of the 12th. Starting pitcher Trevor Black, who tripled home two runs in the third, then walked. Dillon Bowers followed with a single to right, and Vaughn walked to load the bases. Senior Richie Plant replaced Nabors and walked Jacob Klement to force home the decisive run.
L-E rallies to tie China Spring
L-E (33-7) got on the scoreboard in the fifth when freshman Maddox Moore walked with one out. Pinch-runner JD Davis moved up on a single by Cal Jones and Triston Haugh walked to load the bases. Davis scored when W.T. Jones hit into a fielder’s choice.
The Leopards tied the game when Dylan Garton led off the sixth with a walk. He advanced on Aydan Easter’s sacrifice bunt. Collin Evans singled to right, putting runners at the corners. Head coach Zach Fowler signaled for a double steal. Evans was out at second, while Garton scored.
L-E stranded a runner at third in the eighth. W.T. Jones was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on Easter’s single to right in the 10th.
Fowler used five pitchers in the game. The Jones brothers only had 94 combined pitches left after Wednesday’s 15-5 romp over Randall. They still combined for eight innings. Nabors was impressive in three innings despite suffering the loss. He allowed two hits and struck out four.
The Leopards graduated five players last month. Cal Jones, JD Davis, Dylan Garton, Aydan Easter and Richie Plant all contributed in L-E’s third trip to the state championship game.
Junior W.T. Jones heads a strong group of starters back for 2024. Sophomores Triston Haugh, Britain Pipes, Collin Evans, Dyan Nabors and freshman Maddox Moore all return.