By KEVIN HARRIS
In the opener of a doubleheader on Saturday at Borden Community Park, host Borden took a major step toward a Southern Athletic Conference championship with a come-from-behind 7-6 victory over Class A No. 8 South Central. Only the first game of the doubleheader counted in the conference standings.
In the nightcap, the Braves found out that they still have some work to do to knock off the three-time defending sectional champion Rebels and win this year’s Class A South Central Sectional. Borden blew an early 4-1 lead in Game 2 and lost to the Rebels, 7-5.
The Braves (7-6, 2-0) had a productive day at the plate with 19 hits, but they struggled defensively with a combined seven errors, while South Central (10-6, 1-1) only committed one.
“We kept giving them extra outs and we really can’t do that against a team that good. We were lucky to get away with one [victory],” Borden coach Brian Agnew said. “It’s going to be a battle for us to win the conference and the sectional. It’s going to take everything we have.”
GAME 1: BORDEN 7, SOUTH CENTRAL 6
Trailing 6-3, the Braves began their rally in the bottom of the sixth inning. With two out, right fielder David Vansant drilled a double off Rebels’ starter Nate Shaffer that hit the left-field fence. The two-bagger knocked in Garrett Vick from third base to cut Borden’s deficit to two runs.
After South Central failed to score in the top of the seventh, Borden finished its rally with three runs in the bottom half.
Shaffer allowed a leadoff walk to Borden’s No. 9 hitter, Sam Beckort. Shaffer then got pulled by Rebels’ coach Brian McKnight for reliever Nick Veith.
But Veith could not hold the Braves. He walked Brian McGee and then made a wild pitch to advance McGee and Beckort to second and third, respectively.
Borden’s Josh Vollstedt then tied the contest at six with a two-run double to right-center field. Then Braves’ junior Kyle Kruer ended the game with a walk-off double to deep center to drive in Vollstedt for the game-winning score.
Vollstedt wound up 3-for-4 with a double, two runs scored and two RBIs. Vick was 2-for-2 with two RBIs and a run scored, while McGee went 2-for-3 and scored twice.
Kruer pitched all seven innings to improve his record to 4-1. Of the six runs he surrendered, only one was earned. Kruer gave up seven hits and one walk while striking out eight.
“It took Kruer and a big inning to get it down against them in the first game,” Agnew said. “Vansant’s double [in the sixth] was huge in pulling us within two. We needed every one of [those doubles]. But we waited almost too long to get that done.”
For the Rebels, Austin Knear was 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles, two RBIs and a run scored, and Veith was 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.
Shaffer threw six-plus innings, yielding five runs (all earned) on eight hits. He recorded five strikeouts, walked two and hit one batter.
GAME 2: SOUTH CENTRAL 7, BORDEN 5
The Braves broke a 1-1 tie with three runs in the bottom of the third. With two out, Cody Craddock smacked an RBI single to left to knock in courtesy runner Dawson Nale. The next batter, Noah Hart, followed with a two-run base hit to center to put Borden up three.
Then it was South Central’s turn to make a comeback.
The Rebels pulled to within 4-2 in the top of the fifth on a Texas Leaguer to right by Shaffer off Vick, Borden’s starter, to plate Parker Gabhart.
In the sixth, South Central had its way with Borden left-handed reliever Caleb Hart.
With runners at first and third with one out, Veith smacked a double to right to drive in Joe Logsdon, pulling the Rebels within a run at 4-3. After Cory Ray scored on a sacrifice fly to tie the game, Gabhart put South Central in front for good with an RBI single to center for a 5-4 lead.
After Caleb Hart got pulled for Brandon Thompson, the Rebels’ Jack Turner and Shaffer each collected RBI singles to increase South Central’s advantage to 7-4.
“That little experiment did not work out the way we wanted,” Agnew said about having a southpaw on the mound in the late innings. “We learned what we needed to do, but it was a heck of a price to pay. They are a very good team.”
Borden attempted another late rally, but this time it could not pull it off.
In the bottom of the sixth, Vollstedt cut the Braves’ deficit to two runs with a sacrifice fly to right to knock in Vansant.
Then in the seventh, Borden got two runners on with two out. But the Rebels ended the game with a force out at third.
“The kids didn’t get down and they didn’t quit,” McKnight said. “In the second game once we got down 4-1, they kept battling, they had good at-bats and they put the ball in play. They made things happen.”
Vick went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI. On the mound, the senior right-hander allowed two runs (both earned) on seven hits. Vick struck out two, walked one and hit a batter. Noah Hart was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, and McGee had a 2-for-4 game with a run scored.
Veith was 3-for-4 with a double, a run scored and an RBI. Gabhart went 3-for-5, scoring twice and driving in two runs. Ray was 2-for-5 with two runs scored, while Shaffer was 2-for-4 with two RBIs.
Gabhart got the victory in relief. In four innings, he yielded one run (earned) on three hits with three strikeouts and one walk.
Borden will travel to Seymour on Tuesday.
BORDEN 7, SOUTH CENTRAL 6
S. Central 112 200 0—6 7 0
Borden 102 001 3—7 10 4
W — Kyle Kruer (4-1). L — Nick Veith (2-2). 2B — Austin Knear 2 (SC), Josh Vollstedt (B), Kruer (B), David Vansant (B).
SOUTH CENTRAL 7, BORDEN 5
S. Central 100 015 0—7 13 1
Borden 103 001 0—5 9 3
W — Parker Gabhart (3-0). L — Caleb Hart (0-3). 2B — Veith (SC).
Records — Borden 7-6 (2-0 SAC); South Central 10-6 (1-1).