Cardiac MAC comes back from the brink to beat Cedar Park, claim bi-district title

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First baseman Sam Russell and Coach Russell Huston congratulate starting pitcher Jesse Reed after Reed posted another zero on the scoreboard in Game 3. Reed was the pitching star of Game 3 while Russell was stellar in pitching seven-plus scoreless innings in Game 1. Photo by Adrian Pena.

The situation the Knights faced as they woke up on Saturday morning was eerily similar to the one they faced the week before.

They lost a road game to a team with Cedar in its name that put them on the brink of crushing disappointment. And in both situations, they needed to come home to Northwest Park and win to keep their season goals on track.

The week before, they would rally after a road loss to Cedar Creek to beat the Eagles and extend their streak of 5-A district titles to six.

After a tough 1-0 loss at Cedar Park in the opening round of the state playoffs on Friday, the Knights again faced the same challenge of coming home needing to win, but this time the task was an even tougher one. A loss to the Timberwolves wouldn’t just cause disappointment. It would end their season.

And they didn’t need to win once. They had to win twice because they trailed the best-of-three series one game to none.

Despite the stiffer challenge, the Knights proved their mettle once again.

After a clutch pitching performance from Jonah Smith and two big offensive innings led to an 8-4 victory in Game 2 of the series, the Knights still had to win the decisive third game. After six innings and five outs of scoreless baseball in Game 3, Ben Wangrin plated the only run of the game when he hit a two-out, bases-loaded single that brought home Mason Bryant and the bi-district series, 2 games to 1.

While Wangrin seized the day and the series in the final half inning, no one stood taller in the series-clinching victory than starting pitcher Jesse Reed, whose dominant performance not only saved the Knights’ season but also atoned for earning the loss in relief of Sam Russell in Game 1 on Friday.

Reed rewarded his coach’s faith in him by hurling a complete-game shutout with four strikeouts and only five hits allowed.

Wangrin’s hit was preceded by singles by Bryant, Smith and catcher Tyler Page. Page went 3-for-4 in the decisive third game.

The Knights almost took the lead a few innings earlier when with one out Luke Richter attempted to score on an outfield hit by Jesse Levy-Rubinett, but an excellent throw from the Timberwolf defense beat Richter to the plate, and he was tagged out in a bang, bang play. The Timberwolf defense answered again a batter later when Quentin Reed hit a ground ball that seemed destined to extend the inning only to have Levy-Rubinett forced out at second in another extremely close play.

Cedar Park gave the Knights everything they could handle with two games that looked like a full egg carton on the scoreboard until the final half-inning.

The Knights now advance to tonight’s second-round playoff, a single-elimination game against Alamo Heights at Wimberely. First pitch is at 7 p.m.

IN OTHER NEWS: Congratulations to Smith for winning this week’s Aspire Athlete of the Week honors. Smith garnered nearly 2,000 votes in the week-long online voting competition.




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