Tiger Baseball hopes dashed

 

Pitcher Reese Johnson throws the heat. PHOTO BY ISHMAEL JOHNSON

By: 
Nick Castillo

 

Chris Payne went around and hugged his players Saturday evening.

Payne and his Dripping Springs Tigers were eliminated from the playoffs after a 2-0 loss to Corpus Christi Ray at Jourdanton Sports Complex. Despite the disappointing result, it was important for Payne to express to his team his gratitude for their performance this season.

 “They’re all like my own kids,” Payne said. “There’s a family atmosphere. There’s great chemistry between a lot of them. You know, a lot of these kids spend a lot of time with me. A lot of them are straight baseball kids and I have an opportunity to spend more time (with). I just love them and respect each and every one of them.”

 Senior shortstop/pitcher Reese Johnson said it came as no surprise that Payne made sure to hug each of Johnson's teammates after their season came to an end.

 “That’s just who he is,” Johnson said. “He doesn’t put anyone before anyone else. He treats everyone with the respect they deserve. Definitely going to miss him a lot. He’s just a great guy and a great coach. Someone you can definitely model your life after not just as a coach but as a person. To just see the way he treats everyone and how he treats us as one of his own.”

 Dripping Springs (27-13-1, 10-4 26-5A) entered Saturday’s Region IV semifinal contest against Ray (28-7, 9-3 30-5A) in need of a win to extend its season after dropping game one of the best-of-three series, 6-5.

 The Tigers struggled early on the mound. Pitcher Marco Pressley began the game by hitting Ray’s leadoff batter shortstop Antonio Valdez. Pressely walked Texan pitcher Nick Lofton to put two on but Dripping Springs made it out of the frame unscathed.

 But Pressely began the second inning by giving up a walk and a hit by pitch. The Texans loaded the bases and an RBI single from right fielder Isaac Flores gave Ray a 2-0 advantage.

 “Free bases are always tough,” Payne said. “I don’t think there’s ever a time where you want to give them up. For them, they capitalized on them. We gave up walks, obviously, and it put us in a hole that we couldn’t dig ourselves out of.”

 Loftin held Dripping Springs hitless until the fifth inning when junior third baseman Pete D’Alessandro hit a leadoff double. But the Tigers couldn’t cut into the Texans’ lead.

The Tigers put another runner on in the sixth but they couldn’t get the much needed RBI hit.

 “It’s definitely disappointing but we hit some balls hard,” Johnson said. “(The ball) just kind of got right to them. The guy on the mound was obviously really good. He was in the zone the whole game and making us miss. But, it’s definitely disappointing but not in a sense that we could’ve hit better. We felt like we hit the ball pretty well but right at them.”

Dripping Springs couldn’t even the score in the seventh and its season came to a close.

After the loss, Payne said he wasn’t disappointed with the outcome and he was proud of how his team performed throughout the year.

 “I wished the seniors the best of luck and thanked them for everything they do and have done for the program for four years,” Payne said. “Just encourage the guys coming back to maintain that fire that’s lit in their belly. That might be the end for some but there’s still some coming back to give it another round next year.”

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