ROUND ROCK, Texas - The Blanco Panthers were no strangers to being down 2-0 in playoff games. But in the biggest game in Panthers school history, the Wall Hawks' two run sixth inning burst proved to be too much.
The Panthers (33-5) ran out of outs Saturday, falling to Wall 2-1 in the 3A state championship game at Dell Diamond.
"We had runners in scoring position early in the game, but we just couldn't get it done," said Blanco head coach Bryan Wyatt. "Give credit to Wall, their pitcher was pretty good."
The title game lived up to its billing, turning into an old fashioned pitchers duel between Panther starter Zack Wisdom and Wall's Luke Young. Only a freshman, Wisdom pitched well beyond his years, giving up only two runs on five hits while fanning two in six innings of work.
"He didn't know he was going to pitch until this morning and when I told him that he was getting the ball, he was ready to go," Wyatt said.
"I was a little nervous in the beginning, but once I worked through the first inning, I thought that we had this," Wisdom said. "Going out in the state game and pitching five innings of scoreless ball was one of the best feelings."
Great glove work by both teams allowed them to maneuver out of jams, but that changed in the home half of the sixth. Wall's Ryan Gully worked a two out single through the left side to advance Colton Diebitsch to third. Two batters later, Wisdom fired a two strike offering to Caleb Heuertz that appeared to be in the zone, but home plate umpire Joe Jimenez disagreed.
On the very next pitch, Heuertz sacrificed to center field, scoring Diebitsch for the game's first run.
"That could have changed the game, that one pitch. But that's baseball. You've got to let it go," Wisdom said.
The Hawks then added insurance, courtesy of Gage Weishuhn's base hit over the head of Blanco short stop Griffin Johnson. Gully crossed the dish to make it a 2-0 game, but the Panthers had one final say.
With one out, Eddie Calzoncit hit a deep drive to center field that was misplayed and fell to the turf, advancing Lane Lowak to third. Jackson Hunter then sacrificed to left field to put the Panthers on the board with two outs, but a single run was all Blanco could muster.
Gully, who stepped in to close out the game for tournament MVP Luke Young, struck out Baylor Smith to secure the win.
"These kids never quit. That's been the way all year long," Wyatt said. "We're out there with 'Blanco' on our chest, so you've got to do right things for the community and as you could see today, our community stands behind us."
Blanco's disappointment was palpable after the game, but the players showed incredible perspective.
"It was just an awesome experience," said senior catcher and Rice signee Tyler LaRue. "We could have just as easily been first, so it was great just being here."
In its second trip to state, Wall (38-1) takes home the title for the first time in school history. After not advancing beyond the semifinals during state appearances 1988 and 2007, Blanco finishes as state runners-up for the first time. The Panthers also finished the season with a school record 33 wins.
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