Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

May 24, 2014

Region II-1A semifinals: Dawson out-hustles Gorman, 7-0

Bulldogs advance to Region II-1A final against Trenton with a hustling attack and a brilliant pitching performance from Trent Underwood

GLEN ROSE —  The bag of ice was wrapped tightly around Seth Lachney’s right shoulder as he walked off the field Friday night.

    He didn’t grimace. He didn’t complain. He didn’t blink. Just like his Dawson teammates, Lachney just kept moving along.

    Just like the Bulldogs, who are moving ahead in the Class 1A baseball playoffs, where there are just eight teams left in Texas, moving to the Region II-1A final against Trenton, and a step closer to Austin and the state tournament.

    Dawson had just taken care of Gorman, 7-0, to win the Region II-1A semifinals, and there was joy on the Glen Rose diamond. Parents, friends and fans were gathering with the kids who play for Dawson, taking pictures, laughing, reliving the big plays of the game and soaking in the victory.

    Shortstop Jarod Gray had just dumped the team’s barrel of water on Coach Chris Sexton, and this time the Dogs got him -- and got him good, just like they got Gorman.

    Lachney smiled. But even that probably hurt.

    He was in the on deck circle when he took a line drive off his shoulder -- a shot that was hit so hard it sounded like a gunshot when it hit Lachney, a liner that bounced off his shoulder all the way down the line past first base and along the fence that runs next to right field.  

    He never came out of the game. He just trotted out to third base, took a couple of warm-up throws across the diamond and hung in there. He was silent during the celebration. Just how much pain was there? No one knew.

    “I can’t really feel anything right now, because I’m so happy,’’ Lachney said. “It hurt when I got hit. It hurt a lot, but I didn’t want to come out of the game. We had to finish the game.’’

    That’s the face and heart of this Dawson team, tough, gritty and not an ounce of quit in it. The Dawson kids scratched and clawed and fought for every run Friday -- all seven came from a lineup that went to the plate with hustle in one hand and discipline in the other.

    “They played their hearts out,” said Sexton, a first-year coach at Dawson who believes in his kids, and whose kids believe in him. “I am so proud of them. I preach all the time that when you get to the playoffs you have to want it more than the other team. You have to sacrifice. Look at our third baseman, Seth Lachney. He gets hit with a line drive. He’s in pain, extreme pain. But he gutted it out. He didn’t want to come out of the game. This team is the epitome of what Seth Lachney did tonight.’’

    Dawson (19-10) had only three hits, but the kids ran out every play, hustled on the bases and put pressure on Gorman all night. The Panthers felt it and made nine errors to open up the door, and once Dawson got on the board, Trent Underwood took over.

    The crafty left-hander simply fed off the energy of his teammates and the moment, and he pitched a masterpiece, a two-hit shutout with five strikeouts against a Gorman team that had won 10 in a row. He didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning, and by then Dawson had built a 6-0 lead.

    “Honestly, I really felt good coming into the game,” said Underwood, who has allowed just one earned run in three playoff starts. “When I was throwing in the bullpen everything was on. All my pitches were there. And as the game went on I got stronger. I would say this was one of my top performances. It’s right at the top.’’

      Gray, who had another big night at the plate and at shortstop, said that’s just who Underwood is.

    “He was on tonight, but he’s always on,’’ Gray said. “We all have confidence whenever he pitches.’’

    Gray is a scoring machine, a born--to-leadoff player who set the tone early. He led off the night creating havoc. Gray reached first on an error, stole second, moved to third on a grounder, and scored on Lane Dotson’s sacrifice fly. The Dogs didn’t have a hit, but they had the lead.

    And they had a blueprint -- one to beat Gorman starter Dakota Pacheco, whose fastball comes in at 84 to 86 mph.

    “We heard all week that he was a hard thrower,’’ Gray said. “We wanted to stay short with the ball, to choke up and have a two-strike approach on every pitch. We were just trying to put the ball in play and make something happen. We did what it took. We saw their defense wasn’t very good and we anted to put pressure on them.’’

    They did.

    “Trent did a great job,’’ Sexton said. “And I told these guys all week to put the ball in play and put the pressure on them. Their shortstop made some good plays, but when he looked up our kids were running hard to first and that put pressure on him to have to throw the ball hard to get us.‘’

    The Dawson kids just kept coming, and hustling for runs.

    Brandon Cehand led of the second by reaching second on a throwing error, moved to third on ground out to short, and scored on Justin Gray’s hard grounder to short. After two innings, Dawson had a 2-0 lead without a hit.

    Gorman made three errors in the third and Lachney, Gray and Dalton Long all scored. Lachney walked and scored on a throwing error to first on Gray’s grounder, and Gray moved around the bases and scored when Long reached on a dropped ball at first base. Gray hustled around third, and it appeared he would be thrown out at the plate, but Gorman’s catcher had moved up the first base line, and when the throw came home, Gray slipped in behind the catcher.

    The Gorman catcher was so frustrated he made a bad throw back to Pacheco on the mound, and Long made a heads up play to take second base. He stole third and then scored on a passed ball and it was 5-0, and the Dogs still didn’t have a hit. Cehand got the first hit in the third with a two-out double.

    Justin Gray, Jarod’s younger brother, led off the fourth with a bunt single and went to second when the throw got past first in what was a near collision at the bag. The hustling play paid off when Mason Burleson brought in the sixth run with a ground out back to the mound as Gray zipped home on the throw to first.

    It was like that all night for the Dawson kids, who simply hustled on every play. If you want the picture book example, it came in the sixth when Connor McEntire hit a hard grounder back to the mound. Most kids won’t even run that play out, and 99 out of 100 big league players never run it out. But there was McEntire going as hard as he could on the sure 1-3 play. The throw beat him to the bag, but the first baseman juggled and then dropped the ball as McEntire came flying across the bag.

    But that wasn’t even Dawson’s best hustle play of the night -- or McEntire’s.

    In the bottom of the third Gorman’s Hunter Childers had a one-out infield hit and the throw to first skipped past Cehand. Childers took off for second, but McEntire, who plays right field, raced in and scooped up the ball along the right field line. He made a perfect throw to Jarod Gray at second to nail Childers with the best defensive play of the night.

    Dawson made the plays that Gorman didn’t. The Panthers came into the game with a reputation for stealing bases. But when Pacheco walked to lead off the second and tried to swipe a base, Burleson gunned him down, sending a message early that if the Panthers wanted to steal bases, they better do it at a sporting goods store. They weren’t going to run on Underwood and Burleson.

    Jarod Gray reached base three times on two errors on ground balls and single in the sixth. He scored three times, including in the sixth when he stole second and stole third and came home when the catcher’s throw to third on Gray’s steal went into left field. Gray reached base five times (four hits and a walk) in last week’s 11-4 playoff win over Muenster and scored twice. He has been on base 8 of his last 10 plate appearances and scored five runs.

    His younger brother, Justin, a freshman who has been a big surprise and a big bonus for Dawson this season, scored a run and drove in a run Friday while making several big plays at second, including running down a fly ball in the seventh.

    “We had a lot of confidence,” Justin gray said. “We played small ball, scratching for runs. I love the small ball game. It puts the pressure on the other team.

    “It just feels great to win this game,’’ he said. “It feels so good. I don‘t even have words for it. It‘s exciting. It’s electrical.’’

    It’s Dawson …

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