A defensive gem provided an unlikely end to a Region III-1A bi-district contest Tuesday night between the Rice Bulldogs and the Carlisle Indians.

Rice sophomore shortstop Humberto Aguinaga made an unassisted double play in the bottom of the seventh when he made a sno-cone grab near the second base bag and flipped the ball to first for the third and final out as Rice doubled up the Indians — in more ways than one — 8-4 at Tyler’s Mike Carter Field.

Miscues were numerous as both squads combined to commit eight errors, but a young Carlisle team paid more for its mistakes as the Bulldogs (24-2) scored six unearned runs.

“I think both teams were nervous,” Rice head coach Gary Brown said. “I know their coach said they are a young group, and our guys have never been in the position of being favored before.”

The Bulldogs, ranked No. 5 in the latest Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 1A poll, won a first-round playoff game at Mike Carter Field for the second consecutive year. Rice moves on to face Wortham (16-6) — a 7-2 winner Tuesday against District 17-1A winner Bosqueville (14-13).

The Bulldogs never trailed after a three-run opening inning. Junior catcher Lupe Hernandez drove in Aguinaga with a one-out single to right field. Hernandez later scored on a wild pitch, and a sacrifice fly by classmate Dustin Calhoun plated Nathan Myers, who had reached on an error.

Carlisle responded in the bottom half the frame as leadoff hitter Johnny Jackson drew the first of three walks and later scored when a pickoff throw to third went down the left field line. Daniel Castle’s two-out base hit knocked in Cannon Coleman to account for the other run.

Both teams scored a run apiece in the third before a key fourth inning gave the Bulldogs some much-needed cushion. A costly throwing error by Carlisle freshman pitcher Quinlan Wedal allowed seniors Aaron Anderson and Sam Marshall to score. Rice tacked on another run when senior Justin Reyes slapped a single to left that brought home Chase Henderson.

Myers tallied the only extra base hit when he hit a double off the left field wall in the fifth. The junior first baseman scored the Bulldogs’ final run when a Wedal pitch got past Castle. The Indians added an unearned run in the sixth before Anderson pitched a scoreless seventh in relief.

“I thought we hit the ball pretty well,” said Brown, whose team stole six bases. “The only part I was disappointed in was when back-to-back-to-back strikeouts came when we had runners on second and third base and we could have put the game away.

“We popped up a lot of stuff tonight, and we got to straighten that out. Part of (Carlisle’s) success came in putting pressure on the defense, and there is not a whole lot of pressure put on defenses by strikeouts and pop-ups.”

All four pitchers that took the mound battled a tight strike zone all night long. Reyes earned the win as he surrendered four runs — two earned — on three hits while striking out nine and walking five in six innings of work. Coleman was tagged with the loss as he allowed five runs — three earned — on four hits.

“Justin had a hard time finding the strike zone,” Brown said. “He was frustrated with himself. We had a small strike zone, but it was very consistent all night long. He knew where it was and what he had to hit.

“He got into a situation where he was throwing a little bit more than pitching. The guys behind him did a great job, and Aaron has been pretty consistent all year long. Justin’s pitch count was up there, and we felt Aaron could close the door.”

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Chris Smith may be contacted via e-mail at csmith@corsicanadailysun.com

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