Mineral Wells Index
By CLINT FOSTER
SANTO – The Santo Wildcats baseball team took a major step toward a possible district championship, Saturday, when they handed the Albany Lions their first district loss of the season in a 13-5 victory.
The win not only extended the 'Cats current winning streak to four games, but also kept them mathematically in the hunt for the District 10-1A championship, provided they get a little help.
If Santo (11-7, 9-3) wins their final two games of the regular season, and Albany loses – in games against Eula and Lipan – the 'Cats and Lions would be knotted for first place and in need of a tie-breaker game.
It's a fairly slim chance, but to paraphrase Lloyd Christmas from "Dumb and Dumber," there's a chance.
It's certainly within reason to foresee Santo upholding their part of the scenario after their performance against the district's season-long frontrunners.
In a game that stayed tight through the first four innings, Santo pulled away in the fifth and transformed the contest into a blowout in a matter of two frames.
With the score tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the fifth, the 'Cats rode three walks, two singles and an error to a three-run inning. After a third consecutive shutout inning on defense, a six-run sixth inning put the game out of reach and secured the Santo victory.
Santo had plenty of standouts at the plate. Kyle Moore led the 'Cats in hits, finishing 3-for-5 with two RBIs and a run.
Dylan Swinney and Grant Gilbert tied for the team lead in RBIs with three apiece. Gilbert was 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored, while Swinney was 1-for-3 with a run of his own.
Also finishing 2-for-3 with an RBI were Jordan Edwards and Ty Hunter and Grant Nemeth turned three walks into three runs.
"Our hitting has kept us in ball games," head coach Brandon Young said of his team that averages .460 at the plate with five hitters batting .500 or better. "But now that our pitching is coming around, it's all just kind of come together.
"We felt like we could pull it off with Swinney on the mound and everything just fell into place."
As hot as the Santo bats were, pitching truly was the story of the Albany win, as it has been in each of the past four games.
Earning the start and the win, Swinney was in complete control of the game, lasting 6 2/3 innings and allowing five runs (four earned), on four hits and five walks. He also struck out 12 before Keith Chalker was brought in for the final out of the game – a 13th team strikeout.
Swinney improved to 5-0 on the season for the best record on the Wildcats' pitching staff.
Now, with designs on a first-place tie, the 'Cats have their eyes on two more wins with games against the Graford Jackrabbits and Baird Bears looming this week.
Santo will travel to Graford today to face a Jackrabbits team that has shown improvement, earning their second district win in a 7-6 victory over Eula, Friday.
After playing their local rivals, Santo will close out their regular season at home against a Bears team that has proven dangerous this year – although Santo beat Baird 10-3 in their previous meeting this season.
As nice as a potential district championship sounds, Young said the primary focus is to get one win to clinch a playoff berth first.
“We've got to win one of the next two," he said. "We're going to try and keep rolling into the playoffs. We'll just try to stay focused like each game is any other game and everything else will fall into place."