Mason Baur turned from a pitcher into an escape artist Thursday night.
The Decatur sophomore worked around having runners in scoring position from the third through sixth innings, and three times closed innings with a runner at third. Those masterful escapes led to a four-hit shutout and 2-0 victory for the Decatur Eagles over the Bridgeport Bulls in the 9-3A tiebreaker.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” Baur said pointing at his teammates. “They got me out a lot of situations that I shouldn’t have been in.
“I just wanted to keep them at zero. This is probably the biggest game of my life, being a sophomore in my first year on varsity. I’m glad to shut them down.”
After Baur’s gem, the Eagles (11-13-2) move on to play Krum at 5 p.m. Friday for the second playoff seed out of 9-3A. With a win, Decatur would get a bi-district playoff matchup with 10-3A’s third seed, Frisco Lone Star. Krum would then turn around and immediately play Bridgeport for the third seed out of 9-3A.
Krum would claim the second seed with a win over Decatur and make the Eagles the third seed. Bridgeport would then be the fourth seed and get a bi-district series with fourth-ranked Argyle, the 10-3A champion.
“We’ll leave here at 5 and hopefully when we get there Krum is down. We’ll get the guys up and ready to play,” said Bridgeport senior Alex Samples. “If we’re playing, we’ll try to kick their tails.”
Baur put the Bulls on the sidelines watching. He struck out nine and walked two over seven innings.
“He pitched a great game,” said Decatur coach Chris Carter. “We also made some plays behind him defensively along the way.”
Baur did his best work with runners on base and against the dangerous Samples, who went 0-for-4, including a strikeout to end the game.
“I had to really focus on the three-hole hitter and throw off-speed pitches,” Baur explained. “You can’t throw anything he can drive.”
Carter added: “He pitched well against him. Samples is a great hitter. He hits everything hard. We were trying to work him with a lot of off-speed pitches. We were able to get him out.”
Samples did get hold of one fastball in the third inning. With a runner on second, he lashed it into left field – but Decatur’s Michael Hicks was able to range toward to line, chase it down and end the inning.
“Playing Decatur for four years, they know me and won’t throw me anything good to hit,” Samples said. “When they throw me a fastball, I try to jump on it.”
Samples came up with the bases loaded and one out against Baur in the fifth and hit a fly ball to right field. The runner on third failed to tag on the play and was thrown out trying to get back to the bag for an inning-ending double play.
That was one of two outs on the base paths for Bridgeport.
“After 27 games, you can’t be making the base-running mistakes that we did,” said Bridgeport coach Ted Leps.
“We also were not getting hits when we had runners on base. We struck out too much. From the fourth on, we had opportunities.”
Decatur found just enough offense against Samples early to get the win. The Eagles’ first three runners reached base on a walk and a pair of singles by Baur and Austin Givens. Drew Edwards knocked in Cain Lowe, who worked a leadoff walk, with a fielder’s choice.
Samples limited the Eagles to just a run in the first.
Decatur added a second run in the top of the second with Christian Carrillo reaching on a dropped third strike and coming around to score on sacrifice fly to right by Lowe.
Samples never allowed another runner past second, tossing a five-hitter with five strikeouts, two walks and hit batter.
“Alex did a great job. All we ask it to keep it close into the seventh,” Leps said.