By Mike Stahl
Needing a victory against Navarro in the regular season April 29 finale to force a tiebreaker the next day, La Vernia took to the field early, after the threat of rain forced the game to be moved from 7 p.m. to 4:30, to see who would take the top seat in the district.
In the top of the first inning, starting pitcher Kyle Kincaid kept Navarro off the bases by striking out the side. La Vernia’s first at bat began with Tanner Sims hitting a single with one out; he then stole second, when the Navarro catcher couldn’t handle the pitch. Sims reached third on a sacrifice fly, but was stranded as a pop fly ended the inning.
In the top of the second, the Panthers managed to get a runner on second with a hit and a subsequent stolen base, but the Bears’ defense stopped Navarro, with Kincaid striking out two and a force out at first base.
La Vernia began the second inning with hits by Eric Ruiz and Logan Saenz. Devin Drake’s sacrifice fly sent Ruiz to third. John Hernandez’s single drove in Ruiz to give La Vernia a 1-0 lead.
La Vernia loaded the bases, but couldn’t manage to get another run in the inning, leaving the bases loaded.
Kincaid repeated his first inning performance by adding three more strikeouts, but not before a costly throwing error led to two Navarro runs. La Vernia was unable to answer and left one runner on base, when Navarro was able to close out the inning. The end of the third saw the lead switch to 2-1.
The bottom of the fifth began with La Vernia’s Jacob Prater hitting a single and then working his way to third.
Prater evened the score at 2-2 as he stole home on a Navarro wild pitch. The Bears loaded the bases. With two outs, the Panthers’ shortstop made a bad throw on a force out at second, allowing Zach Rogers and Eric Ruiz to score, giving La Vernia back the lead, 4-2.
The top of the seventh saw a pitching change for La Vernia, when Dakota Hurley took the mound, trying to preserve the Bears’ lead. He aided his team’s effort, catching the Navarro batter’s popped-up bunt attempt.
With runners on first and second, the Bears had a chance to close out the game with a double play but, after forcing out the runner advancing to second base, a wide throw to the first baseman led to Navarro closing the gap to 4-3. With two outs, Hurley was able to catch the Panther batter looking for a called third strike, preserving the La Vernia victory and forcing a tie-breaker with Navarro on April 30 in Wimberley.
The Bears lost their April 30 game against Navarro, 11-2, putting them into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed.