MABTON - When the Lyle Cougars breezed into town this past Saturday, Mabton High School's baseball team knew it had to win both games of the doubleheader to advance to the postseason. With the season on the line the Vikings battled tooth-and-nail, only to come up a run short in the opening game.
"We knew we had to sweep Lyle to make the playoffs," said Mabton Coach Kerry Snodgrass. "After we lost that first one, I guess we lost some of our enthusiasm," he added in explaining how Lyle 10-runned his club in the nightcap.
Saturday's two losses left Mabton with a 3-9 South Central 'B' League record. The Vikes' final overall record for 2004 is 6-13.
Mabton could have easily rolled over against the Cougars in the opening game, after Lyle put up 3-spots in both the first and second innings. But with a gritty determination, the Vikes stormed back into contention. Led by James Magana, Marcos Zepeda and Andrew Tellez-each of whom went 2-for-4 at the plate-Mabton plated three runs in the bottom of the second and another two in the third to tie the game at 6-6.
Perhaps inspired by his teammates, hurler Tommy Bonewell bore down and tossed shutout ball in the third and fourth frames to keep the Vikes close.
"Tommy did a great job all game," said Snodgrass.
Mabton snapped the 6-all tie in the bottom of the fourth, on a fluke of sorts. Magana's grounder to third was misplayed for an error, one of five miscues Lyle committed in the game, which allowed him to reach safely. On a pitch that got by Lyle catcher Kevin Nagy, Magana scooted to third. Nagy attempted to throw the Viking baserunner out, but the ball sailed into right, allowing Magana to prance home and give Mabton a 7-6 lead.
The Cougars regained the lead with two runs in the fifth, but Mabton countered with two scores of its own in the bottom half of the sixth to maintain its one-run advantage. Magana's lead-off double was the key blow for Mabton in the sixth.
In the last inning, Lyle loaded the bases on a walk, a base hit and a Mabton error. At that point Snodgrass pulled Bonewell from the mound and turned to Zepeda for help. Unfortunately, Zepeda was greeted with a two-run double. To Zepeda's credit, he limited the damage by inducing an infield double play and then struck out a batter to end the inning.
Mabton went down 1-2-3 in its half of the seventh to end the game.
In Saturday's twin bill finale, Devin Essex threw a two-hitter for Lyle in its 12-2 victory. Andy Torres and Alex Balli came up with the only hits off Essex, both singles.