Saturday, Moody had to win two games against Alamo Heights in the Region IV final. The Trojans had dropped the opener 3-2 in eight innings Friday at Whataburger Field.
The Moody baseball team learned Sunday what lies ahead in the Trojans’ quest for a third state championship.
Tenth-ranked Moody (32-6-1) will face Whitehouse (31-8) in a Class 4A state semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. That game follows the first 4A semifinal between No. 2 Tomball (33-4) and Wichita Falls Rider (32-8).
The Trojans will be making their 12th state tournament appearance, by far the most of the field. Whitehouse and Tomball are making their first trips at state, with Rider a four-time participant.
Whitehouse is located 10 miles southeast of Tyler in East Texas. The Wildcats enter the state tournament on a 12-game winning streak.
Whitehouse cruised through the Region II bracket, going 10-0 with only two games decided by one run. The Region II final against Liberty saw Whitehouse romp to 6-0 and 6-1 victories.
The Trojans are returning to state for the first time since 2009. Except for junior catcher/pitcher Michael Cantu, who went to the 5A tournament with Carroll the past two years, every Moody player will be making his first state appearance.
It was reported that there was a little anger circulating among Moody’s baseball team late Friday and on the bus ride Saturday on the way to the conclusion of the Region IV-4A championship series. It started with junior pitcher-catcher Michael Cantu and circulated throughout the dugout.
Coach Joe Curiel’s Trojans swept the Alamo Heights Mules in two games, overcoming a possible record number of runners left on base in the series, to beat the Mules 9-2 and 5-2. This will be Moody’s 12th trip to the state tournament.
“I came out there with a mission. I’ve been in this place before,” said Cantu, who becomes the first area player to appear in three consecutive state tournaments with two different teams. “We knew if we beat (Alamo Heights) the first game they’re not going to want to play us the third game. So I just told Coach, I said, ‘Coach, you worry about who’s pitching the third game because I’ve got the second one.”
Cantu (11-0) had the first one, scattering eight hits and striking out seven. Sophomore Aaron Hernandez had the second one. Hernandez drove in six runs in Game 2 and then, after not having pitched since the 6-0 win over King before the playoffs, tossed seven innings of eight-hit ball in the final game, making his overall record 3 wins and 1 loss. Despite leaving 32 runners aboard in the three-game series, the Trojans came up with enough key hits in Game 2. They were 6 for 19 with runners in scoring position accounting for nine runs batted in.
“We were angry at ourselves for letting (that happen) in Game 1,” said J.D. Garcia, who was 4 for 5 in Game 2 and added two more hits in Game 3. “It was, ‘You know what, let’s get it done and get it over with and go to state.’”
“I said we had to capitalize,” Moody third baseman Ricky Gonzalez said. “We capitalized today.”
Hernandez paved the way in the finale. The Mules (24-12-1) touched him for two third-inning runs to pull within 4-2. But the sophomore settled in, throwing 117 pitches after catching Cantu for six innings in Game 2. Hernandez allowed only three hits after the third inning.
“Me and (Hernandez) were on the same page the whole day, the whole night,” Cantu said. “We just switched positions and he went out there and he threw his butt off. It’s a great feeling for him to get there and to have done it the way we did it.”
Three second-inning Alamo Heights errors and an intentional walk to Kenny Saenz — it was one of five free passes Mules pitchers issued in the game, three to Saenz, to keep Moody’s more proficient hitters from having an opportunity — led to four Moody runs. Three scored on Cantu’s deep fly to center field that the Mules’ Cole Bailey couldn’t handle and the other on Chris Estrada’s RBI bunt off Cameron Mineo (11-4), the Mules’ ace who picked up the win in relief in Game 1.
Moody (32-6-1) will play Whitehouse (31-8) in the State Semi-Finals at Dell Diamond in Round Rock at 7 pm, Thursday, June 6th. The winner of this game will play the winner of Tomball (33-4) vs. Wichita Falls Rider (32-8), Dell Diamond at 7 pm, Friday, June 7th.
Tickets: Session passes are $5 (students) and $10 (adults). All-tournament passes are $30.
Television: Semifinals will be on Time Warner digital channel 888 and streamed online at FoxSportsSouthwest.com. Final will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest Plus and streamed online at FoxSportsSouthwest.com.