A four-run sixth inning capped a comeback from an early 3-0 deficit to earn East Texas the 2012 Texas Collegiate League championship
The Pump Jacks were in first place for all but five days this summer. But they struggled down the stretch into the TCL playoffs.
They had to come back from those struggles to re-focus against the top teams in the league in the TCL postseason. They had to come back from a 1-0 deficit in the TCL Championship Series against the Victoria Generals. And they had to come back from one last deficit, down 3-0 after the first inning.
They did all of that, beating the Victoria Generals 7-4 at Driller Park to claim their first TCL championship in dramatic fashion in front of the fans who have cheered for them all season long.
After falling behind 3-0 in the top of the first, the Pump Jacks pulled within one run in the third inning against Victoria starter Tyler Schnuriger. Louie Helmburg doubled to center field, perfectly beating a Generals defensive shift, and Kevin O’Leary followed with a double to right that scored Helmburg to get East Texas on the board. After a sacrifice bunt moved O’Leary to third, Tyler Sullivan came through with a bloop RBI single down the right field line to pull the Jacks within 3-2.
The score remained 3-2 as Schnuriger and reliever Pump Jacks reliever Jacob Lindgren held the fort. In the bottom of the sixth inning, the Pump Jacks took the lead for good in a controversial and exciting half-inning of baseball.
Whitt Dorsey led off with a single, then he was replaced at first after R.J. Santigate grounded into a fielder’s choice. With Taylor Murphy at the plate, Santigate moved to second on a passed ball. Facing a full count, Murphy hit a fly ball to deep right field. Victoria outfielder Chad Kruse dove to make the catch, but the ball got away from him. A hustling Santigate came home to tie the game at 3-3. Murphy was initially ruled out on the play, but the umpires reversed the call after a discussion, and the score remained tied.
Logan Preston continued the inning with a walk off of reliever James Ferguson. Justin Wall grounded into a fielder’s choice that erased Preston. With Murphy now on third and Wall on first, Helmburg worked a walk to load the bases. The Generals went to Dallas Ponder out of the bullpen, and that’s when the turning point of the game, and the series, took place.
O’Leary strode to the plate with two outs and the bases loaded. The shortstop hit a slow grounder toward his counterpart, Brandon Tierney, who threw low to first. O’Leary beat the throw, which skipped past first baseman Patrick Duncan and down the right field line. Murphy and Wall scored easily, while Helmburg raced around the bases and slid safely under the tag at the plate to give East Texas a 6-3 lead.
The seismic momentum shift in the frame would be exactly what the Pump Jacks needed. Victoria drew a run closer in the seventh, but the Pump Jacks got it right back in the eighth when Preston reached on an error and ended up scoring on another passed ball.
The Pump Jacks then turned the game, and the season, over to record-breaking closer Jason Jester in the ninth. The Hallsville native responded and rebounded from his previous outing to give the Pump Jacks their first TCL Championship in textbook Jester fashion, striking out the side as the celebration at Driller began in earnest.
The star of the game was O’Leary, who went 3-for-3 with three RBI, including the game-winning hit in the sixth. Every Pump Jacks starter except one had a hit in the contest, with Sullivan and Murphy adding key RBI, and Helmburg scoring two runs. The only Jack with a safety was Wall, who made his mark by scoring the game-winning run.
Another star for East Texas was Lindgren (3-5), who appeared in relief for the first time all year. The freshman lefty held the Generals hitless through 2.2 innings to get his third win of the summer and settle down the Pump Jacks after they had fallen behind early. He got the win, while Schnuriger (2-5) took the loss. Jester got his 20th save as well for the Pump Jacks, extending his all-time TCL single-season record and sending the fans home happy one last time.
The win capped a memorable season in East Texas, which saw the team climb all the way to #7 in national rankings and go an incredible 26-6 at historic Driller Park. The victory gave the team its first TCL championship and gained a measure of revenge over the Generals, who defeated the Pump Jacks in 2010 for their only league title.
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