DALLAS — Arlington Martin might have won Game 1 of the best-of-three 5A regional quarterfinal Thursday night, but Keller Fossil Ridge owned the momentum.
Thanks to a seven-run rally in the final two innings of Thursday night’s game that brought Keller Fossil Ridge within a run of the lead in the seventh, Ridge carried the roll into the first inning of Game 2 at Dallas Baptist University.
And the Panthers posted a 10-spot on Arlington Martin en route to a 11-1, run-rule victory in five innings.
“That’s what we talked about today — that we had the momentum,” starting pitcher Sheldon Neuse said. “They might have won, but we have the momentum. We outscored them quite a bit in the sixth and seventh inning last night, and it showed up in the first inning today.”
Neuse was a part of that monstrous opening half-frame merry-go-round, driving in a run off a double to left. With two sacrifice flies in the remainder of the game, Neuse led his team in RBIs with three Friday.
The run support the starter was given allowed him to throw just 14 pitches in one inning work before Kenniel Rivera came in to finish off the next four innings, allowing Neuse to get the starting nod again Saturday against Martin’s probable pitcher, ace Turner Larkins.
While Fossil Ridge coach Doug Dulany knew he had to start his top arm Neuse in the possible elimination game Friday, it was Rivera who stepped up and said he was ready to go.
In his four innings, Rivera gave up one run on four hits, throwing a total of 68 pitches. His only comment after the game: “I was feeling it.”
The junior pitcher painted the corners the entire night with a sharp cutting slider, demonstrating his best control of the season, Neuse said.
“He was definitely on tonight, probably the best I’ve seen in a long time,” Neuse said. “He took it out in his own hands and he won the game.”
Game 3 returns to DBU at 1 p.m. Saturday with a trip to the regional semifinal at stake. Though the series is tied, Fossil Ridge believes it holds the advantage.
“It just kind of sent a message to those guys that we came back late last night and we’re riding it right now and just letting them know that Game 3 isn’t going to be an easy one,” Neuse said.
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