JUSTIN — It was as perfect a bunt as perfect gets.
Casey Kirkland, the ninth hitter in Cleburnes lineup, laid down the bunt past hard-charging Wichita Falls Rider pitcher Austin Nagy to drive in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning for a 3-1 victory Thursday in the opener of the Class 4A Region I finals.
The Yellow Jackets (36-5) and Rider (32-8) resume the series at 6 p.m. Friday at Northwest High School. If needed, Game 3 will follow.
The win was the 500th career victory for Cleburne coach Ross Taylor.
It didnt get any better than that because their pitcher is very athletic, Taylor said. That was a big deal for us to get that run, obviously, but that extra run was really important because you dont know how interesting things can get in the bottom half of the seventh.
Dylan Schneider picked up the win to improve to 16-0 for Cleburne. He went seven innings, giving up an earned run, while scattering five hits.
Kirklands bunt came as Cleburne finally got a rally going in the seventh with the score tied 1-1.
Nagy had eight strikeouts and had given up only one run on an error before that.
Quade Coward started the seventh with a single before moving to third on a sacrifice and a single by Daniel Richardson.
Richardson stole second base before Kirkland, on a 0-1 fastball, bunted a dribbler to the left side of the mound. Nagy had charged and the ball was placed perfectly, scoring Coward.
Nick Woodall hit into a fielders choice to score Richardson for the insurance run.
Cleburne grabbed a 1-0 lead on an error in the third. Kirkland doubled, then scored on Woodalls routine grounder to short.
Rider got the run back in the fourth when Mason Stone hit a double off the wall in left-center, then scored on Casey Wissingers single to left.
Nagy went seven innings, giving up five hits and falling to 10-4 on the season. He had eight strikeouts and threw 112 pitches, 76 for strikes.
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