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Ridge Point is 31-4 and headed to the regional semifinals after sweeping No. 1 state-ranked Tompkins in their Class 6A regional quarterfinal series at Tompkins High.
KATY—Ridge Point wanted Tompkins.
When the UIL released its postseason baseball brackets a few weeks ago, the Panthers liked that Tompkins fell early on their side. Even though the Falcons entered the playoffs with only one loss through the regular season, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 6A and No. 10 nationally, Ridge Point was undeterred. Unfazed.
The Panthers proved as much Friday evening, finishing off the vaunted Falcons with a shocking sweep of their Class 6A regional quarterfinals. Almost exactly 24 hours after Ridge Point rallied from down 1-0 with no runners on base and two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning to pull out a cinematic 2-1 Game 1 win, it responded demonstratively in Game 2, jumping out to a seven-run lead before holding on for a 9-7 win at Tompkins High.
“We love this,” said Panthers senior Justin Vossos, who had two RBIs in the Game 2 win. “We saw the bracket come out and we wanted to play them. We want to play the best. We worked hard like we know how to do, and we believed. We believed we could beat them. We came out and played our baseball and obviously it showed.”
RIDGE POINT!! Panthers sweep the No. 1 state-ranked Tompkins Falcons, take Game 2 9-7 to advance to regional semifinals. txhsbaseball @FBISDAthletics @RP_PantherPride @RPHS_Panthers @6ABASEBALL @RGAPMobileLivepic.twitter.com/UIaKpx9Nw5 — VYPE Houston (@VYPE Houston)
The Panthers (31-4) advance to play Pearland in next week’s regional semifinals. Ridge Point is eyeing its second state tournament appearance in three seasons, not including the 2020 campaign shortened by COVID-19.
‘They’ll have the momentum,” coach Clint Welch said of his boys. “They’re hungry now. That will take care of itself.”
Tompkins pitchers struggled with command. Of the 141 pitches thrown between seniors Solomon Rotberg and Michael De Battista, and junior Ty Dagley, only 79 were strikes (56 percent).
The Falcons walked seven Panthers, and it was lack of command that ended the evening abruptly for starter Rotberg, forcing Tompkins to go to its bullpen after 1 1/3 innings.
Ridge Point did not get much offensively going until the sixth inning, when three straight walks from De Battista to start the frame ultimately resulted in six runs, keyed by Vossos’ two-run RBI double, Travis Vlasek’s second RBI single of the game, and Carter Groen’s two-run double that plated the eighth and ninth runs that turned out to be decisive.
The Panthers scored nine runs off seven hits.
“With the wind blowing out, we knew to stay compact,” Vossos said. “Hit nice little line drives and they’ll fly. A few walks led us to good hits and good ABs, so that really helped us.”
.@RPHSBaseball senior and @AggieBaseball commit @VossosJustin talks about the Panthers\u2019 sweep of No. 1 state-ranked Tompkins with today\u2019s 9-7 Game 2 win. Vossos had two RBIs in the game. #txhsbaseball @FBISDAthletics @RPHS_Panthers @6ABASEBALL @RP_PantherPridepic.twitter.com/5CDGc570r4 — VYPE Houston (@VYPE Houston)
The Panthers, meanwhile, benefited from an admirable outing from senior Hunter Nichols. The right-hander threw six solid innings, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out eight.
“Hunter did a great job and kept them from scoring early,” Welch said. “That’s a tough team with a tough lineup. For the wind blowing out like it is, for him to only give up a couple of runs in six innings … just a phenomenal outing from him.”
Nichols’ slider was devastating. He threw his changeup and fastball for strikes. He didn’t so much blow away Tompkins’ batch of sluggers as he did thwart them with off-speed precision.
“Those guys can hit,” Nichols said. “I knew I had to make pitches to get people out. I just tried to stay humble and stay focused. It was a big game. I was able to come out effectively enough to help get us a win.”
.@RPHSBaseball senior @HunterN913 discusses the Panthers\u2019 regional quarterfinal sweep of No. 1 state-ranked Tompkins. Nichols went six innings, allowing two runs on three hits while striking out eight in the Game 2 win tonight. #txhsbaseball @RP_PantherPride @RPHS_Pantherspic.twitter.com/o1u5eeesfG — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
Ridge Point scored a run in each of the first three innings to go ahead 3-0 early. Tompkins got within 3-2 in the third inning and did not threaten again until the bottom of the seventh, down 9-2.
Against Ridge Point’s dynamic freshman left-handed closer Jack McKernan, a University of Texas commit, the Falcons quickly strung together five runs on four soft hits, walking twice and getting hit by pitches twice. It was the offensive prowess many had been expecting from Tompkins all series long.
But after a balk was called on Nichols, which Welch said he didn’t quite understand why, McKernan got Cash Russell to fly out to right fielder Owen Farris to hand Tompkins its third loss in 31 games.
In Game 1, it was Ridge Point’s bats that were clutch with two outs, especially Groen’s walk-off two-run single. In Game 2, it was the rookie McKernan fighting through tough calls on balls-strikes and a balk. It was McKernan’s strikeout on five pitches of Falcons power hitter and Texas A&M signee Jace LaViolette, a probable early pick in this summer’s Major League Baseball draft, that will leave an impression.
“We have a bunch of guys that compete,” Vossos said. “They come out here, work their (butt) off in practice. Everyone wants that big moment.”
Ridge Point baseball.VYPE Media
Welch said there are similarities between this year’s Panthers and those 2019 state finalists.
“One is that they all get along well, and you’ve got to have that,” Welch said. “You can’t have cliques within your team. We have guys that all contribute to the team in some way. They all get along. They’re all rooting for one another, rather than hoping a guy doesn’t get a hit so that they can get in. We don’t have guys that do that. We have guys that mesh well together.”
Sky-high confidence. A thickened bond. And self-assurance and trust on the field, at the plate and on the mound.
“We’re going to stick to what we’ve been doing and stay true to ourselves,” Nichols said. “Play baseball the way we know.”
No. 1 state-ranked Lake Creek is 37-0 and back in the Class 5A Region III finals for a second straight season after finishing off a regional semifinal sweep of Friendswood with a 10-0 win in six innings in Game 2 on Thursday at Tompkins High in Katy.
KATY—All along this season, Lake Creek’s softball players knew what they had to do.
Last year’s regional finals loss to Barbers Hill left a bitter taste. The Lions said they had unfinished business this year. They said they had to take it one game at a time.
So, perhaps the biggest difference in this year’s Lions and last year’s is that they are doing what they say they intend to do. They spoke it into existence. And it’s because of turning words into actions that Lake Creek is laser-focused and set that this year’s regional finals trip will turn out more pleasantly.
Lake Creek took care of business Thursday evening, finishing off Friendswood, 10-0 in six innings, to sweep the regional semis at Tompkins High School. The Lions are 37-0, ranked No. 1 in the state and No. 2 in the nation.
.@LakeCreek_SB wins 10-0 in six. Back to the regional final for the second straight year. State\u2019s #1 team and nation\u2019s #2 is 37-0. @LakeCreekHS @TexHSSoftball @TXPrepSoftballpic.twitter.com/M1uQIBnp1w — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
But they were undefeated, too, when they went into last year’s fifth round. The feeling, though, is this is not that team.
“It’s very exciting,” said junior ace Ava Brown, who went 4-for-6 with four RBIs in the series, threw a complete-game shutout in Game 1 and followed with a scoreless three innings of relief in Game 2. “Obviously our goal is always one game at a time. But we know where we ended last year isn’t where we want to end it this year.
“We know what happened last year. We were a little complacent, undefeated, and this year it’s not about going to round five. It’s about playing the next game.”
Lake Creek was dominant against a tough Friendswood (30-9) team, outscoring the Mustangs 18-0. The Lions hit .451 and struck out just four times in 51 at-bats. They held the Mustangs to 10 total hits in the two games, and almost as many strikeouts (six).
“We had a game plan against Friendswood, and we executed both games,” coach Michelle Rochinski said. “They were phenomenal picking up on the defensive situations, baserunning. They executed both games perfect.”
.@LakeCreek_SB junior @avajbrownn discusses the Lions\u2019 regional semifinal sweep of Friendswood following tonight\u2019s 10-0 win and advancing to the 5A regional finals for the second straight year. Brown went 4-6 with four RBIs in the series. @LakeCreekHS @TXPrepSoftballpic.twitter.com/jDWNQyuAjS — VYPE Houston (@VYPE Houston)
The Lions are ridiculously talented. That much is certain with four NCAA Division I commits. But what they’ve proven is they are as rich in depth as they are in sheer ability.
Brown, junior Maddie McKee (4-for-7, RBI) and senior Madelyn Lopez (2-for-5, four RBIs) were the usual prolific producers in the series. But others have emerged, such as sophomore Carmen Uribe (5-for-6, two RBIs), junior Madison Johnson (no runs on four hits in three innings in a Game 2 start) and junior Payton Bauer (two RBIs).
“I see them picking each other up,” Rochinski said. “We’re not relying on one or two people. It’s a full team effort. Everybody is going to have an off day or an off series. We talk about being perfect, but we know in the real world we’re not going to be perfect. It’s knowing the next person is going to pick us up. That’s one thing I love about this team. They’re there for each other, battling for each other.”
Bauer has been one of those consistent battlers at the bottom of the order. She entered the series hitting .354 with a .400 on-base percentage and 11 walks to five strikeouts.
“Do my job,” Bauer said. “If there’s runners on base, get them in. If not, get it started. Do what I’ve got to do.”
Peyton Bauer 2-run single gets them started. @LakeCreek_SB strikes first. @LakeCreekHSpic.twitter.com/tXrqHyLzEp — Dennis Silva II (@Dennis Silva II)
Rochinski said when the team lost to Barbers Hill last season, there was a feeling that they weren’t done. There was a thought that perhaps it just wasn’t their time.
But after the way the Lions dominated this series, and with the know-how and experience lingering from last season, they are ready to punch the clock. Minds on state, but eyes on Santa Fe at a time and place to be determined next week.
“We have so much drive this year to just finish what we started last year,” Bauer said. “We’re not going to let anything get in our way. We know what we have to do. We know what has to be done. From the first inning, we have to be prepared and locked in. Focused. We have to attack and get the job done.”