Trying to keep a bunch of 8-year-olds focused on the game can be a task sometimes.
Coaches of the Seguin All Stars 8-year-old Specials were working on it the entire game Thursday night at Starcke Park, and after the game were still trying to get their point across to the youngsters, who had just lost their first game of the district tournament.
Seguin fell to New Braunfels White, 11-3 on Thursday, but played much better baseball on Friday night in a tension-packed West Zone championship game.
While the boys fell 4-2 on Friday night, the coaches were much happier about the team’s performance on the field. The talk with the players after Thursday’s lopsided loss had an impact, manager Jesse Herrera said.
“The boys came with a lot more intensity today,” Herrera said. “They came to prove something, we just came up a little bit short. We told them to come ready to play, to be fired up, and they did that.”
Assistant coach Armando Rodriguez gave the pep talk on Thursday night.
“Y’all got to bring it from the get go, be ready when the game starts and start crushing the ball,” Rodriguez said to the kids after Thursday’s game, surrounded by parents. “Nobody had any fire, any intensity, nobody was going crazy. Everybody was just out there looking around, playing another game that wasn’t even going on.”
The moment was punctuated with some humor when a Seguin fan, a player’s grandmother on the team, helped the coach out with some sage baseball advice.
“Y’all got to be running to the bag like there’s a mean old dog chasing you,” she said to the boys, the line bringing laughter from the group of supporters gathered with the team.
“Tell ‘em grandma, you got it,” one of the parents chimed in.
The 8-year-olds apparently took the words to heart, as Friday’s game was nip-and-tuck the entire contest.
New Braunfels jumped out to an early lead, scoring twice in the first inning to take the 2-0 lead.
But Seguin came right back in the bottom half of the inning, when Mason Matocha reached on an infield hit, and advanced to second after the throw to first was wide, and he avoided the tag at second.
Matocha moved to third on a Drew Mundine grounder and then was driven in on a single by Abel Rodriguez, making it 2-1.
“Drew and Abel came hitting,” Herrera said. “They put the ball in play and allowed us to score some runs.”
Seguin threatened again in the second, when Abram Henry beat out a throw to reach first and Austin Riggs was hit by a pitch to put two on with one out. Ashton Herrera beat out a throw to load the bases, but a Matocha grounder was fielded by the shortstop and Asthon was forced out at second to end the chance.
New Braunfels added another run in the top of the third to go up 3-1, despite a great catch from Matocha at second base in the inning.
Rodriguez drove in his second run of the game in the bottom of the inning, hitting a shot over the shortstop’s head to score Mundine from second, and the lead was back to one, 3-2. Successive pop-up outs from Hudson Armstrong and Henry left Mundine stranded at second.
New Braunfels got the first two runners on with no outs in the fourth, but Rodriguez stretched to make a shoestring grab at shortstop for an out to hold the runners and two strikeouts later, Seguin escaped the inning unscathed.
In the fifth, New Braunfels added one more, but a scoop on a grounder by third basemen Isaiah Rodriguez, with the bases loaded, limited the damage to just the one run.
“Our defense came to play today,” coach Herrera said. “They really stepped it up — other than the first two runs in the first inning, we shut them down the rest of the game.”
Seguin got Matocha on in the bottom of the inning, but a close play at second forced him out and Seguin was unable to get the two runs needed to tie the game.
Pitchers Mundine and Mateo Chapa held New Braunfels in check for the game, after they had scored 19 runs in the first two games played by the teams; a 12-8 win for Seguin, and Thursday’s 11-3 New Braunfels win.
“We were responsible for the one loss they had in the tournament,” Herrera said. “We just didn’t have the answer when came back and won these last two games.”
On Thursday, after New Braunfels went up 8-0, Seguin got on the board in the third when Larry Brooks cracked a double all the way to the fence, and scored two batters later.
After New Braunfels added another run in the fourth to go up 9-1, Seguin’s Matocha and Isaiah belted singles to get on base, and scored after hits from Mundine and Abel.
Isaiah showed some savvy base running when he scored, racing home from third and executing a perfect slide when the New Braunfels catcher bobbled a bounced throw to the plate and could not recover to get the tag in time.
The two runs brought Seguin within six at 9-3, but with two runners on and nobody out, Seguin could not get the key hit to close the gap.
End of the season
Coach Herrera congratulated his players on a great season — and their effort on Friday night.
“Y’all fought all the way to the end,” Coach Herrera said. “I didn’t see anything wrong tonight, you can walk out of here with your heads held high. I’m sad that it’s over, that we didn’t get to accomplish what we set out to do, but I’m proud of all of you.”
Coach Herrera was assisted by coaches Steve Henry, Rodriguez and Joe Chapa, who also had some words for the kids.
“Everybody got better today,” Chapa said. “Y’all went down fighting hard, everybody hustled, and we appreciate that as your coaches.”
It was Coach Herrera’s first year to coach in Little League, and he was appreciative of the chance to coach the Specials team.
“I was lucky to be nominated to coach the All Stars,” he said. “It was a lot of fun, and I can’t take nothing away from that.”