The Northside Christian Warriors hoist the Division V state championship trophy after knocking off Runnels, 2-1, Monday afternoon at McMurry Park.
Warriors slide past Runnels for Division V state title
The Northside Christian Warriors had five seniors on their roster entering Monday’s Division V state championship game against No. 5 Runnels.
And while each of them produced in one form or another, it was a pair of juniors who stole the spotlight.
One of them, Keegan Foreman, worked 5 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out 11 batters, while the other, leadoff man Mathew Richard, came through with a clutch RBI single in the bottom of the sixth inning to break a 1-1 deadlock and lift the Warriors to a 2-1 victory.
The championship is the Warriors’ first since 2014 and second in school history.
“I’m just so proud of these guys,” said NCS coach Brock Hernandez, who took over the Warriors’ program in 2015. “In 2014 we graduated a lot of seniors and we started over with seventh and eighth graders and it’s been a long trip here.
“The kids worked their tails off and we’ve been playing close games the last three weeks of the season. It just feels great.”
Foreman, a crafty southpaw, was named the championship game’s Most Outstanding Player after earning his second victory of the state tournament. He picked up the first of the two wins in last Wednesday’s semifinal game after taking the mound in relief of starting pitcher Dustin Hernandez.
The scenario was almost identical Monday.
With the Warriors trailing 1-0 and runners at first and second base, Foreman got the call again and logged a pair of quick outs to get out of the potential jam.
From there, he was lights out.
Foreman faced 18 batters and allowed just two base runners - on a hit and a walk. The runner that reached base via the walk was erased by catcher Anthony Stansbury on a steal attempt in the fifth inning.
Foreman then struck out the side in the top of the sixth and sat two of the final three batters down on strikes in the seventh.
“Some days you have off days and some days you’re on. Today just happened to be my ‘on’ day,” said Foreman, who allowed one unearned run and struck out 14 in 9 2/3 innings during the state tournament.
“My two-seam and my four-seam (fastballs) were working and my curveball was really on today. It felt great and I am just blessed.”
With Foreman doing his thing on the mound, the Warriors were still in search of that offensive spark.
Although they finished with seven hits, they struggled to come up with the timely hit they desperately needed.
“Seven hits….we hit the ball against them,” said Hernandez, whose team stranded eight base runners through the first five innings. “We just left a lot of runners. We just couldn’t get the timely hit and we couldn’t get those runs across.”
That changed in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Senior shortstop Lance Martin started the frame with a bang by driving an 2-0 fastball to the left field wall for a leadoff double. Gabe Perry, another senior, executed a perfect sacrifice bunt to first base to move Martin over and set the stage for Richard, who flared the first pitch he saw just over third base to plate the eventual winning run.
“I was seeing the ball pretty good today, but I just wasn’t making good contact,” said Richard, who was 0-3 entering his final at-bat. “I saw the third baseman was playing up so I knew it was the perfect time to drop it over his head and it just happened.”
Hitting from the left hand side of the plate, Richard was looking for a pitch on the outer half and that’s exactly what he got.
To Hernandez, it wasn’t surprising: Richard had delivered like he had done so many times before according to the coach.
“He just dropped in there,” said Hernandez. “He’s gone to the opposite field all year long. That’s his spot right there. He’s probably hit it right there 50 times this year and he hit it at just the right time today.”
Runnels, which won just one game two seasons ago, put the pressure on the Warriors in the opening frame by pushing the first run of the game across thanks to a hit batter and a sacrifice fly by starting pitcher Ricky Harrison.
The Warriors evened things up one inning later when Koye Credeur singled to right field and eventually scored on a bases-loaded walk to Perry.
The Warriors did however leave three runners stranded in the frame.
Foreman and Credeur were the Warriors’ offensive leaders with two hits apiece. Martin, Jon Walker and Richard each had one hit.
“I’m just so proud of these guys,” said Hernandez. “They just never give up. We’ve played some tough games this year and it’s just never over. We almost got bumped in the quarterfinals and now, we’re state champions.
“It just feels awesome to bring home another state title and I thank God every day that I get to coach this team.”