SHINER -- The wind was blowing so hard Monday at the Shiner Starplex baseball field, a foul popup by Cole Hybner wound up being scored as a sacrifice fly, and another foul ball off the bat of a Dallas Covenant hitter wound up clearing the outfield fence -- on the softball field behind the baseball field.
In the end, however, it was heads-up baserunning and the timely bat of senior Devin Pesek which helped propel the St. Paul Cardinals to an 11-1 victory over Covenant, earning themselves a berth in the TAPPS 1A/2A state tournament starting Thursday.
The Cardinals, 27-7, will battle Huntsville Alpha & Omega at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Waco ISD sports complex in the semifinals. The winner advances to Friday’s championship game, also set for 10:30, at the Mary Hardin-Baylor College campus in Belton.
"The wind was a factor," admitted St. Paul coach Mark Noska of the strong gusts which blew routine fly balls off course and forcing fielders from both teams to make some unusual stops, "but it worked both ways. we knew we wouldn’t be able to drive the ball deep like we usually do, so I told the kids to concentrate on hitting it on the ground and make them make the plays."
Pesek went 4-for-4, driving in four runs with a pair of triples and two singles. The rest of the Cardinals spent much of the game rubbing sore spots -- Covenant pitchers hit five St. Paul batters with pitches.
Covenant threatened in the first inning against St. Paul starter Dustin Adamek (8-2), sandwiching a pair of walks around a bad-hop infield error to load the bases with one out. Adamek escaped the jam with a strikeout and groundout.
St. Paul also threatened in the first but also came up short-handed. Pesek drilled a two-out triple to start the rally, then Blue Hybner walked and Kyle Wallace drew a walk to load the bases, but Covenant pitcher Lance Ellerman escaped by inducing Adam Hollenbach to fly out to left.
The Cardinals erupted for three runs in the second inning, however. Dakota Kresta was plunked to lead things off and moved up on a sacrifice bunt by Brett Hodges. Adamek drew a walk before Cole Hybner popped up foul to the catcher. In chasing the foul ball, however, the Knights neglected to cover the bases and both Kresta and courtesy runner Mitchell McElroy advanced a base on the play, scoring on an infield single by Sciba and a throwing error.
Sciba came home with the third run when Pesek ripped a singloe to left-center.
Covenant got its lone run in the third inning. Patrick Miller led off with a single and came around on a throwing error on Blaine Moore’s fielders-choice grounder. Moore held up trying to score on a single by James Hanrahan, and alert defense by the Cardinals got them out of trouble when catcher Blue Hybner rifled a relay of Cole Hybner’s throw from left field down to Kresta at second to catch Hanrahan trying to take an extra base.
St. Paul added four more runs in the third to increase its lead to 7-1. Hollenbach reached first base on a dropped third strike, then Kresta was safe on another infield error. Hodges walked and Hollenbach scored on a muffed grounder by Adamek.
Cole Hybner was hit by a pitch to force in one run before courtesy runner Jared Markham was thrown out at the plate on a bunt try by Sciba. Pesek followed with a line single to right to drive in two runs and make it 7-1.
Cole Hybner took over on the mound and mowed down the Knights over the final three innings, facing just 10 batters and striking out seven of them.
Pesek accounted for two more runs in the St. Paul fifth inning, blasting a triple to the gap in right-center which brought home Adamek and Hybner.
St. Paul got its final two runs in the bottom of the sixth to end the game by the 10-run rule. After Tyler Blanton and Kresta both reached on Covenant errors, Markham laid down a bunt single and Adamek followed with a bounce single up the middle to score one run. Cole Hybner speared a hot shot to first base on the next batter, but Kresta scored on the play to end the game.