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Paris Wildcats head baseball coach Bill Sikes went into the weekend’s playoff series vs. Crandall in search of a reliable No. 2 pitcher. Instead, he may have discovered a potential No. 1, and he’s just a freshman.
Clinging to the brink of elimination in Game 2 of the best-of-3, bi-district series, Sikes turned to his nephew Phillip Sikes in the sixth inning of a tie game to quiet the booming bats of the 18th-ranked Pirates.
He did, which allowed the Cats to score the winning run of a 7-6 decision in an 8th extra inning on a walk-off error. That tied the series, 1-1, and forced a decisive third game at Royse City High School.
After a 30-minute rest, play resumed with Sikes on the mound. His mixture of sweeping curves and sneaky fastballs had the Pirates off-stride while the Cat offense pounded four Pirate pitchers for 15 hits to produce an unexpected 14-0, run-rule rout.
“Phillip was outstanding,” a jubilant coach Sikes said afterwards. “We had planned to start him in the third game but had to bring him in early. He was throwing so effortlessly that we sent him back out for the third game.”
How about this for effort: His totals for the day read 7⅔ innings pitched, 0 runs, 2 hits, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts. He picked up both pitching wins to raise his record to 4-3 for the year.
More importantly, he enabled Paris (17-13-1) to win the series, 2-1, and advance to the area round vs. Tyler Chapel Hill. Details of that matchup will be announced shortly.
Saturday’s doubleheader sweep was a stunning reversal of fortune after the 18th-ranked Pirates easily took Friday’s Game 1 at Royse City, 12-3. Crandall, the District 14-3A champion, jumped to an early lead in that game and was able to rest starting pitcher Mitchell Williams after four dominant innings on the mound. It seemed to suggest that Williams would be available for pitching duty on Saturday, but that was not the case.
Both teams sent their senior aces to the mound for Game 2 on a warm, cloudless afternoon. Both aces failed to make it to the finish. Crandall’s Tyler Merriman had control issues, hitting 4 batters and walking 4 while surrendering 7 hits and 6 runs. Jake Clark, pitching on a short 4 days’ rest after winning Monday’s play-in game over Atlanta, was rocked for 11 hits.
Merriman was replaced by Thomas Lunsford, who pitched in mop-up relief of Williams in Friday’s series opener. Lunsford was working on his sixth inning of series relief pitching in the eighth inning when the Cats’ Nos. 7-8-9 hitters loaded the bases with no outs. Paris had failed to score additional runs in the fifth inning of a 6-2 game under the same circumstances (bases loaded, no outs) when Lunsford was brought in to put out the fire.
It looked like it might be deja vu for Paris in the eighth. A drawn-in Crandall infield twice choked off the winning run at the plate on groundouts, but the Pirates couldn’t get the third out when Clark’s bouncer up the middle was bobbled by shortstop Kevin Pruitt, allowing Reavis to score the game-winner to tie the series.
Sikes went back to the mound to start Game 3, but before he threw his first pitch Paris already had a 6-0 lead. As the leadoff hitter for the designated visitors, Sikes ripped the first pitch by diminutive junior Hunter Darst into leftfield for a single. The Cats used an aggressive approach at the plate to extract 5 hits and 3 walks off Darst, who didn’t survive the first. Paris sent 11 batters to the plate and took control of Game 3 from the onset.
Crandall seemed stunned and began making physical and mental mistakes which allowed Paris to score in every inning. The Cats pounded out 15 hits in the game with the first three hitters (Sikes, Conor Henry, Clark) getting 3 apiece. Drew Helberg and Jack Kraft each collected a pair of hits.
Jordan Williams and Jon Nichols topped the Game 2 stat sheet with 2 hits each.
Ironically the series mirrored the results of the 2012 quarterfinals between the two schools with the roles reversed. Paris won Game 1 of that set and seemed on the way to a Game 2 win and series sweep when Crandall turned the tide. The Pirates used senior Ryan Long, who now plays at Texas Tech, to close out Game 2 and get the pitching win. Long returned to pitch a complete game victory in Game 3.
Game 2: Paris 7, Crandall 6 (8 innings)
Game 3: Paris 14, Crandall 0 (5 innings)