Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Sports

June 4, 2014

UIL Class 1A state tournament: Dawson loses to Douglass 9-0 (Adds UIL box score)

ROUND ROCK — In the end, the Dawson kids were still holding the rope that got them here, still believing in each other — a belief that defied the odds and every team they played on the road to state, a belief that defined the kids on this team and their remarkable season.

That season ended in heartache Wednesday morning in a 9-0 loss to Douglass in the UIL Class 1A state semifinals in a game that was so close that Dawson fans, coaches and players felt at any moment the Bulldogs would break through and win it.

Even in the bitter end.

“When we came to bat in the seventh inning and we were down 9-0, one of the kids yelled, ‘Let’s score 10 runs in the seventh and make history again.’ These guys never gave up,’’ said Dawson Coach Chris Sexton, who had the ride of his life as a first-year coach. “I couldn’t be prouder of these guys.’’

That’s what you need to know about this Bulldogs baseball team, a team that made history by becoming the first from Dawson to reach the state tournament.

“The accomplishment of this team is awesome,’’ Sexton said. “We started the season 0-2 and were outscored 20-1 and had just one hit in two games and to get here was amazing. These guys have worked their tails off. These guys have been awesome to get to this point where we had a shot at winning a state title.’’

Douglass, which has been ranked No. 1 in the state all year, extended its winning streak to 27 in a row and will take a 32-1 record into the state title game, but as talented as the Indians are, Dawson was a hit away from breaking the game open until Douglass scored five runs in the sixth.

The Indians scored two unearned runs in the first, added an unearned run in the third and scored on a triple and sacrifice fly to take a 4-0 lead into the sixth.

But at that point, Dawson had out-hit Douglass, 7-4. The Bulldogs had five runners reach second and another make it to third in the first five innings, but Douglass starter Grant Holland (9-0) left the Dogs stranded. Ironically, the Bulldogs hit Holland much harder than the last two pitchers they faced in the playoffs.

“We hit him hard, but we just couldn’t get that timely hit,” Sexton said. “We didn’t get that timely hit all day. Give Douglass credit. Their pitcher did a great job. We hit him hard, but didn’t get the big hit.’’

It was more than frustrating, but in the dugout the Dawson kids (18-11) kept shouting and talking about a rally that would lift them past Douglass.

“It was a close game. I felt like we were in it the whole game,” said shortstop Jared Gray, who had a double in the third and single in the seventh. It was Gray who shouted to the team that they could score 10 in the seventh and make history.

“We had a lot of hits. We just couldn’t string them together to get a big inning,’’ said Brandon Cehand, one of three seniors on the team. “That just happens sometimes.’’

Dalton Long, another senior leader said: “We just couldn’t catch a break. We hit them harder than anyone in the playoffs.’’

They did. Lane Dotson ripped two singles and walked, and Mason Burleson bashed a double over the left fielder’s head in the second. Long had two singles and Justin Gray had a single to go along with his brother Jared Gray’s double and single.  

Irony can sting at times. The Bulldogs’ incredible ride through the playoffs was built on great pitching, a clutch defense and a small ball attack that drove teams crazy. But it just wasn’t Dawson’s day.

“They did to us what we have been doing to other teams,’’ Sexton said. “We made some mistakes early that we usually don’t make, and you can’t do that against a team like Douglass.’’

An error on a popup, a single and two walks and a hit batsman gave Douglass a 2-0 lead in the first, and Cehand came in to relieve Dawson ace Trent Underwood (9-2), a senior, with two outs and the bases loaded and ended the inning with a popup.

“It just wasn’t my day,’’ said Underwood, who had given up just one earned run in four playoff starts. “But we never gave up. It’s been a great experience to get here. It’s amazing being here, being here with my teammates.

“The feeling …” he said stopping and starting again, fighting back tears. “The feeling with this team. I can’t even explain it. It brings me to tears.’’

Douglass broke the game open in the sixth, thanks in part to Matthew Wallace’s two-run homer, and Sexton brought in freshman second baseman Justin Gray to finish the sixth, and when it was over all the Dawson kids, who hung together with the Hold the Rope philosophy of being there for each other, left feeling proud of what they had done and saddened by the bitter ending.

“I’ve never seen a team come together like we did,’’ Long said. “We came a complete 180 from where we started the season to get here. If you saw us at the beginning of the season, you would never thought that was the same team you see now.’’

It was a painful end to the ride of a lifetime.

“We’re heartbroken,’’ said Jared Gray, a junior. “We weren’t expecting to end the season yet. We just didn’t put the hits together today. It’s just heartbreaking.’’

Cehand, who battled on the mound all day with a gutsy performance to end his career at Dawson, felt the same way.

“It was great to get here,’’ he said. “I’m excited we made history by getting here. But I feel empty inside that we didn‘t get the job done and finish it.’’

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