SPORTS HEADLINES

Baseball: One step away – Elder pitches Eagles into region final

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, May 27, 2017
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Lifting New Hardware

LIFTING NEW HARDWARE – Decatur coach Brian Tickell presents his team with the 4A Region II semifinal trophy after the 2-0 win over Gilmer Wednesday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Bryce Elder walked the leadoff hitter and fell behind the second batter while trying to adjust to the mound at Rockwall High School Wednesday night.

The adjustment didn’t take the Decatur senior ace long.

He struck out the next seven batters he faced after the lead-off walk in a dominant six and one-third innings. Elder, who started the playoffs with back-to-back no-hitters, allowed only one hit in Decatur’s 2-0 victory in the Class 4A Region II semifinal win over Gilmer.

MAKING STRONG PITCH – Decatur’s Bryce Elder threw a shutout in the region semifinal Wednesday. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“Coming into the game, I felt really good,” Elder said. “I went out there and the mound was sandy even though it was turf. It was also steep. I just had to make an adjustment, which I did. I pitched well after I made the adjustment.”

Elder struck out 10 and walked four in pitching Decatur to its first region final appearance since 2006.

“Bryce Elder has guts,” said Decatur coach Brian Tickell. “He comes here and struggles the first inning and is trying to find his landing point on the mound and trying to find his release point. He was able to bear down and battle. What a heck of a job.”

Decatur will have to wait for its opponent in the region final next week. Argyle and Pleasant Grove will start the other 4A Region II semifinal series Thursday in Tyler. The Eagles don’t mind the wait after reaching this round for only the second time in the program’s history.

“It’s an awesome feeling. These guys are fun to play with,” Elder said. “We’re figuring things out. We’ll see if we can keep going.”

After throwing 26 pitches in a long first inning and reaching 42 by the end of the second inning, Elder changed his approach on the mound to try to get through the rest of the game. He struck out four over his final four and one-third innings.

“I knew if I kept getting strikeouts that my pitch count would be high,” Elder said. “I started not necessarily leaving stuff out over the plate but at the same time pitching to contact. I got my pitch count under control and almost went the whole way.”

Elder pitched out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth to keep the game scoreless and allowed only two more baserunners.

Starting the top of the seventh at 101 pitches, he struck out the leadoff hitter before Jayden Hall fouled off several pitches before earning a walk on Elder’s 111th delivery. Elder reluctantly gave the ball to Tickell. Wilson Hicks came on to retire the final two batters and close the game.

“I wasn’t very happy at all. I think I had seven pitches for the last batter. He did a good job fouling pitches off,” Elder said. “It didn’t work out at the end. Luckily Wilson was there to come in and get the job done.”

HATS OFF – Wilson Hicks celebrates after Tyler Ticknor scores on Trey Penny’s triple in the 2-0 win over Gilmer. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

For four innings, Elder was locked in a pitcher’s duel with Gilmer’s Nathan Mize. With two outs in the fifth, the Eagles finally got an opening against Mize with a two-out error on ball hit to short by Tyler Ticknor.

Trey Penny immediately made Gilmer pay for the mistake, lacing a triple just inside the right-field line to score the only two runs of the game.

“I always try to tell myself not to try to do too much and just let it happen. That’s what I did,” Penny said.

Penny’s hit was one of only two for Decatur. The Eagles had just seven baserunners against Mize and reliever Kade Clemens.

“At the plate we struggled but we never quit,” Tickell said. “Trey Penny came up big there. I’m so proud of that young man. I gave him the green light on the fastball. He got it and roped it to right.

“We had some miscues but that’s going to happen in a game like this. It’s who can stay in the saddle the longest. I thought we did that tonight. It’s a great job by everybody on this team.”

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