By CLINT FOSTER
AZLE – After a successful District 10-1A runner-up season, the Santo Wildcats' year came to a halt in the first round of the playoffs Saturday, when the Chico Dragons handed them an authoritative two-game sweep in their best-of-three, bi-district series.
Despite losing their lone regular season meeting, 18-10, on March 1, the Wildcats started strong in the first game of the postseason series and looked like they might be able to string together some wins.
But a late-game rally by Chico in game one spelled doom for Santo's bid to build a series lead and the Dragons were ultimately able to ride that momentum to a dominant victory in game two.
"I think we played as well as we could," Santo head coach Brandon Young said. "Our pitching kind of struggled, but our bats kept us in game one. It just wasn't enough in the end."
As they had all year, Santo's bats were the difference-maker in game one, helping the 'Cats to a 4-2 lead through the first five innings.
Dylan Swinney pitched quite a gem for most of the game, with a final line that included 10 strikeouts, but in the top of the sixth frame, the wheels started to fall off.
Chico tied the game at four in the sixth and Santo was only able to add on one run to give them a precarious 5-4 lead heading into the game's final frame.
With the game on the line, Chico exploded to a four-run seventh that the 'Cats were not able to answer. The result was an 8-5 loss, in which Chico only registered one hit to Santo's eight.
The loss in game one foreshadowed the one that was to come in the way that Santo was bitten by the error bug. Despite seven errors by Chico, Santo committed five errors in key situations that lead to three unearned runs – the difference in the game.