HUNTSVILLE – Mother Nature was looking to make a statement in Game 1.
Alan Benhardt and the Malakoff Tigers had other ideas in a 7-0 victory over the Cameron Yoe Yoemen in the Class 3A, Region 3 best-of-three finals following a two hour and 40 minute weather delay.
Benhardt finished with a complete game allowing no runs on two hits with three walks and nine strikeouts.
The hits came to Ryan Host and Bobby Borgas as the Yoemen left six batters on the base paths.
“Alan was nails again tonight. He threw really well and kept them off balance all night,” Malakoff coach John Adair. “He had one-or-two little jams and we got out of them. You can’t say enough about the way that he pitched. He pitched really, really well.”
The game remained scoreless until the fourth inning as Cole Gaddis smacked a home run with two outs down the right field line for the 1-0 lead.
A key play in the top of the fifth came on a bunt single by Riggin Smith following a walk to Nathan Jones. On a 2-1 count, Smith pushed a perfectly placed bunt between first and second and beat out the attempted throw.
“The bunt was huge and at that time it was a 1-0 ball game,” Adair said. “You had a guy at the plate who could really run, and he pushed bunt the base hit. I really think that was huge and took a little bit of a gut punch for them. It took a little bit for them to get over you. Next thing you know, we have scored three runs.”
The Tigers then scored three runs in the fifth on a bases loaded walk to Benhardt scoring Jones, a single by Bryson Adair scoring Smith and a walk by Gaddis scoring Erik Waldo for the 4-0 lead.
“We finally had some hits. I thought we hit the ball well, and we had an inning where we scored three runs and got a hit from a couple of guys and got some RBI’s,” Adair said. “We had three home runs and we have been missing those. We are capable of doing that and I thought we saw the ball really well. Our kids know that we have unfinished business.”
In the top of the sixth, Waldo then smacked a homer down the left field line to extend the Tigers lead to 5-0.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, University of Incarnate Word commit Brandon Nations smacked a two-run home run down the left field line for the 7-0 finale with two outs in the inning.
Adair said Cameron Yoe starter Brannon McCall threw them off early until they could figure him out in the fourth.
“This pitcher was a little different than what we have seen,” Adair said. “The kids were talking about how straight his pitch really was. We were getting under it a little bit because our eyes were really big. I knew we eventually would get on him some. He pitched great and kept us off balance in mixing up their pitches. We knew that coming in and I thought we settled down and had some quality bats when we needed them.”
McCall went six innings, allowing five runs, four earned on four hits. He had four walks and four strikeouts. Reliver Ryan Host went one inning, allowing two runs on three hits with one strikeout and one walk.
The Tigers had solo hits from Adair, Gaddis, Nations, Jack Davis, Jones, Smith and Waldo.
NOTE: For a recap of Friday’s Game 2 at Sam Houston State University, check out the Tuesday print edition of the Athens Daily Review. If Game 3 is necessary, it will also be in the Tuesday print edition of the Athens Daily Review.