With a second consecutive trip to the quarterfinals on the line, Holtville could not find the offense to keep up with Class 4A No. 7 LAMP in a decisive third game Saturday. The Bulldogs were no-hit through five innings and the Tiger offense took advantage, ending Holtville’s season with a 14-2 loss at home.
“I wish I had the answer,” Holtville coach Torey Baird said. “We felt like we did a good job early in the count and put some bats on the ball but none of them seemed to fall when we did. We didn’t get big hits when we needed to and they hit well. When you do that against a good team, that will happen.”
It appeared both teams were in for another pitcher’s duel with LAMP holding a 1-0 lead through three innings. However, the Tigers took advantage of six Bulldog fielding errors to blow the game open in the final three innings.
LAMP scored four runs in the fourth and fifth inning to push the lead to 9-0. The Tigers put the finishing touches on in the sixth inning with two RBI singles and a three-run homer before walking away with a run-rule victory to advance to the third round.
“When it happens early, you keep trying to stress to chip away at that lead,” Baird said. “It just wasn’t our day and it bounces that way sometimes. That’s baseball.”
Holtville won the opening game in the series but the momentum swung into LAMP’s favor during a close Game 2. Baird said he did not believe it had an effect on the result in Game 3; it was just LAMP responded better.
“I felt like we left in good spirit and had a good plan together,” Baird said. “We had an opportunity to show up but all credit to that team. They were really good and their pitcher was throwing good strikes consistently.”
Drew Nobles and Braxton Buck combined to allow just two runs across 13 innings Friday to split the first two games of the second-round series. The Bulldogs won Game 1, 2-1, behind an 11-strikeout performance by Nobles before a first-inning homer was the difference in a 1-0 loss in Game 2.
Nobles extended his scoreless innings streak to 15 before allowing a run in the sixth inning. It was all the Golden Tigers could muster though, as they had just five batters reach base in the first game.
Holtville got its two runs in the third inning after loading the bases with no outs. Nobles got an RBI on a fielder’s choice and Chappelle Washam added the second run with an RBI infield single.
“Winning Game 1 is huge,” Baird said. “All the pressure was on them. Drew is going to give us a great chance to win Game 1 every time he’s out there.”
The Bulldogs turned to Buck in Game 2 for his second start of the season. After sitting down the first two batters, LAMP’s Chris Davis sent the ball over the fence in centerfield for the first and only run of the game.
“We were trying to play a matchup with (Braxton),” Baird said. “We felt he would give us the best chance especially coming in after a hard thrower like Drew. He came in and hit his spots and did his job. He left one ball up and that was the difference.”
Buck settled down and allowed just five hits across six innings on the mound. It was his longest outing of the season and he set a new season-high with six strikeouts.
Holtville’s offense could not get anything going to support Buck on the mound. They mustered up only three hits, two by Nobles, while striking out 10 times. The Bulldogs had two on with one out in the top of the seventh but had their final two batters sat down on strikes.
“He did a good job,” Baird said of the LAMP pitcher. “He threw his fastball out and in and threw his breaking ball for a strike. Those are two good pitchers across from us and they showed it.”
Despite losing some key players from the prior season, Holtville was once again a threat in 4A during the postseason. The Bulldogs will lose much of their production heading into next season but Baird knows the senior class leaving has left a foundation the program can build on moving forward.
“To take the next step of advancing and playing for a state championship, we have to have that mentality of not being afraid to fail,” Baird said. “Those great teams expect to succeed and that’s where we want to be. Once we adapt that mentality, you’ll see a shift in the culture and attitude.”