CORPUS CHRISTI — Sharyland High would not be stopped in the Class 5A Regional Semifinal.
Not by Kerrville Tivy’s best hitting or best pitching, not even by the Rattlers’ own self-inflicted wounds that cost them Game 1 on Thursday and left important runs on the basepaths in Game 3.
When the dust settled at Cabaniss Field in Corpus Christi on Saturday evening, nothing mattered but the final score: Sharyland 4. Tivy 3, in extra innings.
Senior Juan Lopez doubled and scored what would be the game-winning run in the eighth, while freshman Victor Sanchez came through for the win in relief during his first real opportunity at the varsity level.
“They were a tough team to beat, they make plays. We had to fight as a team, keep pushing our limits further and further,” Lopez said. “It felt great knowing that that hit (in the eighth) was closer to a run. I believed in my teammates. I got on base and I knew they would get me in.”
Randy Garcia did just that with an RBI in the next at-bat. That gave the Rattlers the lead but they still needed three outs in the bottom half to advance.
Chase Gerlach started the inning with six balls. Shary coach Barton Bickerton called lefty Sanchez’s No. 54 to clean up and win.
Sanchez started his night with a 2-0 count and a runner on base but his strikeout of that same batter set the tone for the final two outs.
Jesus Alacron started Game 3 after earning the save in Sharyland’s convincing, 7-3, Game 2 victory. He threw 92 pitches after throwing 14 in the middle match.
“The guys that threw today don’t even throw,” Bickerton said. “To come out in the regional semis and do what they did is just unbelievable.”
Diego Pena had an RBI single to bring home Garcia, who hit a double, in the first inning. The 2-0 lead came on a passed ball. The Rattlers should have made the game 3-0 but Martin Vazquez stepped off of third too early on a potential sacrifice fly, the appeal yielded an out.
“We talked last night about us not coming through in certain situations and it killed us,” Bickerton said. “We did the same thing today. To be able to overcome those huge mistakes against a team that was just unbelievable, we just couldn’t put them away. It shows a lot about our kids.”
Tivy fought back with a two-run RBI single by Brady Delgado. Sharyland took another lead in the fifth at 3-2 thanks to an errant throw, following a great stop, by the Antlers’ shortstop.
That advantage only lasted until the bottom of the sixth when Coleson Abel hit an RBI triple, but was stranded at third base.
Gerlach was the center of the action multiple times in Game 3. First, he made a leaping grab at the wall in right field to rob Braden Jaeger, who hit a long home run in Game 2, of an extra-base hit.
“Going into pitch today I was struggling to find the strike zone … in the eighth I couldn’t throw a strike to save my life and it got me moved into the outfield,” Gerlach said. “I remember thinking in my head ‘God, why’d you do this to me? I’m was supposed to end the season for these guys, seniors are relying on me.’”
Things came full circle when the final out of the game was hit to right field, and he made a sprinting catch to end the game.
“I just remember thinking ‘Oh, this is what you put me here for,’” Gerlach said.
He was also the pitcher to relieve Alacron before he was switched for Sanchez.
Sharyland forced a third and final game thanks to a trio of two-run innings. Just four pitches into the game Shary had two hits and two runs, with the big blast coming off the bat of Abraham Alvarez who parked the ball in the left-field bleachers. Pena and Vazquez had two-RBI hits and Abraham Alvarez added a sac fly.
Shary pitcher Ivan Alvarez was strong in the Game 2 win.
“It feels so good I don’t have words to explain myself,” Abraham Alvarez said. “I just love my team, we have to keep it up.”
The win in Corpus, combined with Sharyland Pioneer’s 2-1 series win over Boerne Champion sets up the improbable all Sharyland ISD fifth-round matchup with the winner advancing to state.
Bickerton said his former assistant and Pioneer bench boss, Casey Smith, predicted this game back in district play.
“You know what, he said it the first time we played,” Bickerton said “They beat us and then we beat them at our place and he said ‘I’ll see you at the regional finals’ I just blew it off.”
Smith repeated the statement before the postseason. Despite a tough road, including matchups against perennial powerhouse Corpus programs and tough in-district opposition, Smith was right all along.
“It just proves that we’re the whole district in the whole state of Texas to tell you the truth and there’s no doubt about,” Bickerton said. “There’s a Sharyland team going to state no matter what, so it’s going to be unbelievable.”