The East Texas Pump Jacks know a thing or two about drama.
After sweeping the two games against the Brazos Valley Bombers, one with a walk-off single, the other with a late rally, the Pump Jacks went into extra innings to steal a victory from the Marshals Friday night in McKinney by a 2-1 score. Back-to-back doubles by Mike Petello and Kevin Hussey scored the go-ahead run in the top of the eleventh inning for the Jacks.
Last night’s win, coupled with the Victoria Generals home victory over the Brazos Valley Bombers, had a series of playoff implications. First, the Bombers loss cinched third place for the Coppell Copperheads, who now become the Pump Jacks’ first round playoff opponent. The series will open Sunday in Coppell, with Game Two slated for historic Driller Park on Monday night. If a Game Three is necessary, it will take place in Kilgore on Tuesday.
Now all that remains is fourth place, and it will come down to the last game of the regular season. Brazos Valley is one game ahead of the Marshals, so a win by the Bombers or a loss by McKinney will clinch a postseason berth for Brazos. But if the Bombers lose and McKinney defeats East Texas, the two teams will have identical 19-27 records. The tie-breaker is head-to-head record, and since McKinney holds the edge, the Marshals would then advance to the playoffs.
The Marshals very nearly won Friday, were it not for a baserunning gaffe by Nico Taylor in the seventh inning. Taylor earned a leadoff walk from Abel Gonzales, who had just come on in relief. Taylor advanced to second on a sacrifice, bringing up Ben Gorang. Gorang launched a high drive to left center field and Taylor took off from second, presuming it was a sure-fire extra-base hit. When Hussey dove for the ball and got a glove on it, Taylor had already rounded third, then he doubled back, thinking it was caught. Finally, the ball caromed out of Hussey’s glove, and Taylor turned back around and headed for home – without touching third this time, though. The Jacks alertly appealed the play at third and Taylor was called out with little objection from the Marshals, pulling the go-ahead run off the board and squelching a rally.
Knowing a loss could end their season, the Marshals pulled out all the stops with their bullpen. After starter Thomas Rooke went seven strong innings, McKinney brought in reigning TCL Pitcher of the Year Michael Bolsinger for his first relief appearance of the season. After Bolsinger held the Jacks scoreless for two and sent the game into extra innings, in came closer Dan Gentzler (1-2), who was victimized in the eleventh.
The contest was a pitcher’s duel for much of evening. Matt Click went six innings and allowed just one run on six hits for the Pump Jacks, while Rooke allowed one run on three hits in his seven innings of work.
East Texas got on the board first, courtesy of Hussey. The University of Utah junior clocked a Rooke offering to left with one out in the second for his first home run of the season.
McKinney responded in the fourth inning, stringing together three singles to tie the game.
Gonzales took over for Click in the seventh and went three scoreless innings, with the help of Taylor’s baserunning. In the ninth inning, after Taylor drew a one-out walk, Gonzales picked him off to clear the bases and send the game into extra innings.
Jared Kernodle got the ball in the tenth inning and went two frames to earn the win. Kernodle (3-2) allowed a hit and a walk. He was helped by mightily by newcomer Will Miller in right field in the eleventh. Kernodle walked Curt Resko to open the frame, then J.B. Brown lined a potential extra-base hit to right. Miller cut the ball off and fired a laser to second, nailing Brown. With Resko 90 feet from tying the game, Kernodle coaxed a weak grounder to short for the second out. Jay Morris followed with a sinking liner to right that Miller caught coming in to end the game.
The two teams combined for just 16 hits in the game, nine credited to McKinney. Hussey led the way for the Jacks, going 2-for-3 with two walks, two RBI, a run scored, a double and a home run. Petello was 2-for-4 with a walk, a run, and a double.
East Texas will return to McKinney for the regular season finale Saturday night, with fans in Brazos Valley keeping a close eye on the contest.
The Jacks open the postseason Sunday night with Game One of the opening round in Coppell. The game begins at 7:05 pm, and the Pump Jacks expect to have a vocal contingent in the stands for the game.
The scene shifts to historic Driller Park on Monday night for Game Two of the best-of-three series. The first 500 fans at the ballpark will receive a 2009 Pump Jacks commemorative team poster, featuring photos of this year’s Jacks players, coaches, and even Boomer and Derrick. The poster is presented courtesy of CBS 19 and Hudson Graphics.
Monday also features a new fan favorite promotion, Kids Eat Free Night. All children 12 and under receive a voucher good for a hit dog, chips, and a soft drink, just for attending the game.
If the series is tied at one game apiece after Monday, the Pump Jacks and Copperheads will play a decisive Game Three on Tuesday night at historic Driller Park.
The winner of the series will advance to the TCL Championship Series. The Championship Series will open on Thursday, with Game Two Friday and Game Three, if necessary, on Saturday, August 15.
Tickets for Monday’s Game Two against Coppell are on sale now. Tickets may be purchased at the Pump Jacks office at 1100 Stone Road, Suite 120, in Kilgore, or by phone at (903) 218-GO ET. Tickets can also be purchased prior to the game at the ticket office at historic Driller Park. And as always, tickets are available online – and they can be printed right at home – by visiting www.pumpjacksbaseball.com.