JUSTIN — Cleburne was due a bad game. The Yellow Jackets hadn’t lost since April 16, a stretch of 11 wins.
And despite two bouts of resiliency, they couldn’t overcome their mistakes in an 8-7 loss in Game 2 of their Class 4A regional final series with Wichita Falls Rider on Friday at Northwest High School.
Cleburne (36-6) was charged with five errors, and it took an unlikely five-run inning in the bottom of the seventh just to extend the game.
Rider (33-8) jumped out of the gate, plating two runs in the top half of the first inning. Payton Grissinger and Mason Stone both singled and stole a base to give the Raiders runners on second and third. David Pewenofkit then reached on a fielding error, which also allowed Grissinger to score. Nick Russell followed with an RBI single to make it 2-0.
The Raiders added to their lead in the fourth on a Landon Geisinger single. Rider then added two more in the fifth, primarily the result of three Yellow Jackets errors, to take a 5-0 lead.
The Cleburne offense sprang to life in the seventh, aided in part by three Rider errors. First, Tucker Nolen reached on an error and Quade Coward was hit by pitch. Dylan Schneider walked to load the bases for Daniel Richardson, whose sacrifice fly started the Jackets’ rally.
Casey Kirkland then reached on another Rider error before Logan Runyon’s fielder’s choice cut the deficit to 5-2. Nick Woodall followed with an RBI single and Stevan Martinez walked to load the bases again. Tyler Fowler, who started on the mound for Cleburne, grounded to third, but the throw to first sailed high, allowing a pair of Jackets runners to cross home and tie the game. Martinez attempted to come home for the winning run, but was tagged out at the plate to force extra innings.
Fowler responded to the momentum, striking out the side in the eighth, but Cleburne couldn’t capitalize on offense and the teams played on.
Rider regained momentum with three runs in the top half of the ninth, making the score 8-5. But again the Jackets made it interesting.
Kirkland walked and Runyon singled before Martinez’s base hit scored a run, and an errant throw home allowed another Jackets run to cut the lead to 8-7. But that’s as close as Cleburne would come, forcing a winner-take-all Game 3 for a berth in the state tournament.
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