SUGAR LAND (Covering Fort Bend News) – April had brought misery to the Dulles Vikings. They entered the month 5-1 in District 20-6A play, tied for second place, a single game behind the first-place Ridge Point Panthers. The Vikes appeared to be cruising to their first return trip to the state playoffs since their championship game appearance in 2013, but three straight losses knocked them off course and dropped them into a tie with Elkins for third place at 5-4.
Friday night at Frankie Field, they faced a Clements Rangers team whose district record entering the game (3-6) was two full games worse than that of Dulles, and yet the two ballclubs’ situations felt similarly desperate.
Tied 1-1 in the bottom of the third, with intermittent rain falling that would re-appear every inning, Rangers’ starting pitcher Carson Wilson helped himself with his bat. His sacrifice fly brought home Chris Vann to make it 2-1. Clements expanded their lead to 4-1 after five innings following Brandon Evatt’s RBI double and Colson Cegielski’s dash home from third on a wild pitch.
Dulles’s offense, which had scored only one run in 20 innings entering the game, shook off the rust and rallied to take a 5-4 lead in the top of the sixth. Parker Airhart’s RBI single with nobody out chased home Jason Brown, but the blow that elevated them into the lead was particularly gratifying.
In the April 2 game vs. Ridge Point, the first of the three consecutive losses, Dulles let a 4-0 lead get away. Right fielder Gabriel Herrera missed two fly balls in a single inning that helped the Panthers come back and win a game the Vikings probably should have won.
With two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth Friday at Clements, Herrera ripped a 1-1 pitch down the right field line to drive home Reed Manske, Airhart and Hunter Mullings for a 5-4 advantage. Herrera was one of several heroes who put Dulles over the top.
In the bottom of the seventh, Clements cast doubt into Dulles minds when they scored a run off Vikes’ sophomore lefty Jaden Goodrich. Goodrich had relieved Dulles starter Austin Essex with one out in the fifth, and the only run he gave up came on a passed ball. John Perry dashed home to tie it 5-5 in the bottom of the seventh, launching the game into extra innings.
Dulles denied a Clements walk-off win twice with plays at the plate. In the seventh, on a grounder to shortstop, Brown threw to his catcher, Airhart, to cut down Vann moments after the Rangers had tied it. With two outs in the eighth, Perry blistered a single to left field, and as Evatt flew around third intent on scoring the game-winner, Dulles’s Da’Markus Johnson loaded up and fired home from more than 200 feet away. His perfect throw reached Airhart’s mitt on the fly, and Evatt was gunned down at the plate.
In the eleventh, the Vikings’ refusal to lose finally paid off. With two outs and two on, Airhart crushed a double to left-center field to drive home Austin Epps and Manske for a 7-5 lead – the eventual final score. In the bottom of the inning, Epps took the mound and earned the save for Goodrich by retiring the Rangers in order.
While the Vikings were pulling off their remarkable come-from-behind win, Ridge Point (10-0) beat Bush to stay undefeated, Travis (9-1) beat Austin, and something else happened that made the Vikings and their fans very happy: Kempner beat Elkins, 5-4. Dulles (6-4) is now alone in third place with four regular season games left, and the Knights’ loss drops them into fourth at 5-5. Dulles faces Kempner and Bush next week.
Listen to the podcast of Friday’s District 20-6A baseball action, Dulles at Clements, and Tuesday night’s live broadcast, Ridge Point at Travis, at https://www.spreaker.com/show/fort-bend-sports-powered-by-vype. Also, listen to the Travis-Clements game Thursday at that same link. Coverage starts at 6:45 p.m.